Mon, 08 Aug 1994

Civil servants face a crisis with nothing to do on their free weekends

JAKARTA (JP): Many civil servants were still perplexed on what to do as they lounged around their houses enjoying the first ever Saturday off as part of the newly introduced five day working week.

A number of civil servants who spoke to The Jakarta Post said they fully supported the implementation of the two day holiday but were still unsure on how to fill the additional free time.

"Now there is time for both family activities and recuperation," said A. Wirawan from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"Usually I'd have to rush everything during my day off but today I can pace myself because there's still time to do it tomorrow," he remarked.

"For a low-ranking official like me the extra day-off doesn't mean much as I cannot go out shopping or go on picnics due to financial constraints," said an official of the Ministry of Transmigration who lives in Depok, a suburb south of Jakarta.

State Minister of Administrative Affairs, T.B. Silalahi, last month announced that beginning in August, government institutions would participate in a trial five day working week in preparations of its full implementation next year.

The regular eight to three o'clock office hours is now extended to four o'clock with Saturdays off.

It is aimed at increasing productivity and eliminating the "I don't like Monday's" syndrome, along with tightening the budget by way of saving on electrical and telephone bills.

President Soeharto himself has said the longer weekend gives more time towards the family.

"I'll probably use the time to gain some additional income," said Dedeng a low-ranking official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Though civil servants are forbidden to have second jobs, many are involved in alternative enterprises to supplement their limited income. The basic monthly salary of a newly hired civil servant with a university degree is Rp 90,000 (US$ 42).

An often heard remark to the extra day off is that it allows workers to gain additional income since the government cannot afford pay raises for the nation's four million civil servants.

Though he would not disclose how, Dedeng admitted he frequently uses his Sundays to help support his family.

"It's different for ranking officials, they can think of relaxing or going on picnics but for us in lower positions it's an opportunity to earn a little more cash," he said.

Mrs. Savitri Hasan from the Ministry of Industry was thankful for the extended weekends. She says that the extra day will either be spent with her husband and young daughter out of town or completing weekly household chores.

"Sure we'll go out, but not every weekend...the government increased our holidays not our pay," she smiled.


Initial observations of the first Saturday off show that the early morning rush hour traffic tamed down somewhat.

"In many areas it's the same but in places like Jl. Sudirman it is slightly less congested than usual," Hendra Purnama, a Kosti Jaya taxi driver said.

According to him, Saturdays will probably be more congested as the day wears on since people will go out during the evening when it's less hot.

Some bus drivers at the Pelbak bus stop, South Jakarta, felt they weren't carrying as many passengers as last Saturday morning but they couldn't say if it was a direct result of the new weekend policy.

"I feel I was carrying less passengers than usual, " said Rustam, a driver of a wide-bodied, limited passengers express bus Patas 42 which serves the Blok M-Senen route on the morning shift from 4.30 a.m. to noon.

Ridwan, another morning-shift driver of Patas 42, said he also felt there were less passengers that morning.

"I've driven back and forth four times and yet the fares I collected still weren't enough," he said.

Both Ridwan and Rustam claimed they were unaware of the government's trial two day weekend this month.

Sujono Effendi, a morning-shift driver of PPD 38 serving the Blok M-Rawamangun route, said he got fewer passengers that morning but this was not surprising since there are usually fewer passengers on Saturdays anyway.

When told about the five day working week, Sujono said his boss didn't tell him about it and that if it were true, the Saturday fare deposit should be reduced by 10 percent as it is on Sundays.

Drivers working in the morning shift must deposit a daily fare of Rp 114,000 (US$52.7) while those on the evening shift deposit Rp 128,000.

"If the fares I collected are less than the target, my monthly salary will be deducted," he said of his Rp 147,000 a month salary.(arf/mds)