Thu, 09 Nov 2000

Govt to draft law on labor exports: Al-Hilal

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Al-Hilal Hamdi said the government intends to draft a law regulating standard procedures for the export of labor, including legal protection for Indonesians working overseas.

"The presence of a law is urgently needed to replace the current ministerial decree, which is considered out of date. The law will regulate standard procedures labor exporters must comply with in supplying workers overseas, and provide stiffer sanctions against those who violate them," he during the extraordinary congress of the Indonesian Labor Exporters Association (Apjati) here on Wednesday.

The standard procedures will cover training for workers, labor contracts with foreign employers and legal protection for workers.

Al-Hilal conceded the controversy surrounding the export of labor often was due to the absence of a vigorous law, the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration's poor service and the poor management of labor export companies.

The supply of female workers overseas has been objected to by several ministers and non-governmental organizations here due to the frequent cases of exploitation of Indonesian workers.

Al-Hilal said despite the criticism, the government decided to continue exporting labor because it was a good strategy to help solve the high level of unemployment in the country.

"As long as we have political trouble in inviting foreign investors to invest here, we have no better alternative than the strategic labor export program to cope with the unemployment problem. Now we have around three million people working in numerous countries.

"If the labor export system is repaired, this figure is expected to double in the next five years," he said.

He further stressed the need for the government to tighten labor export regulations to minimize the supply of unskilled workers.

"This could be controlled by certifying workers who want to work overseas," he said.

Tjeppy Alo'ei, the director general for labor placement at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, called on the congress to elect a chairman who was professional and had strong managerial skills to repair the association's badly tarnished image.

"Apjati needs strong leadership to help further the interests of labor exporters," he said, adding that the association played a key role in improving Indonesia's bargaining position in the international labor market.

Anthon Sihombing, who is tipped for the association's top position, said if elected his main program would be to revamp the association so it would be more effective and to lobby partner agencies overseas to improve protection for Indonesian workers.

"We should also improve coordination with related government institutions, including the foreign ministry, the immigration office and the National Police, to support labor exports," he said. (rms)