Sat, 27 Jul 1996

2.5m Indonesian set to work abroad by 2000

JAKARTA (JP): The government expects at least 2.5 million Indonesians to be employed overseas by year 2000, contributing about US$12.5 billion in foreign exchange a year, a minister says.

"Hopefully the rising demand for our workers will help reduce unemployment at home," said Minister of Manpower Abdul Latief in a written statement delivered by Gilbert Pasaribu, an official of the East Timor office of manpower, during the commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the ministry in Dili.

He was quoted by Antara as saying the income should also stimulate the rural economy as most of the workers abroad come from Indonesia's rural areas.

Currently, about 800,000 Indonesians, mostly unskilled, work legally overseas, most in Malaysia and Australia. Those working illegally are believed to number in the hundreds of thousands.

One of the problems to solve soon is how to improve quality of workers' training so that they become more skillful and can command better legal protection, Latief said.

Latief, however, also pointed out that along with the increase in foreign investment here, the number of foreign workers employed here has also been rising. More than 57,000 foreigners are currently working here, receiving a combined income total of US$24 billion a year.

"The government will soon audit professionals working here to establish the capacities and qualities that Indonesian workers need to compete with foreign workers," he said.

Following harsh criticism of the poor protection and abuse of Indonesian workers abroad, the government decided to phase out the sending of menial workers into informal sectors and increase the number of skilled people able to find work in better-paid, better-protected formal sectors.

AFP reported from Singapore yesterday that a Singaporean woman pleaded guilty in a local court to hitting her Indonesian maid and throwing a cup of hot water in the maid's face. She could be jailed up to five years.

Tan Choon Bee, 40, struck Machyati Machyito with a feather duster, pushed her with a metal stool and pinched her right thigh at her home last December. Machyati reportedly forgot to follow her employer's instructions on how to do the laundry.

The court will hear a mitigation plea from Tan before sentencing. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine.

Indonesians and Filipinos make up the bulk of the estimated 80,000 foreign domestic helpers employed in Singapore. (swe)