Sat, 13 Mar 1999

Govt to set up labor export agency: Minister

JAKARTA (JP): The government is setting up a labor export agency to simplify procedures and better protect workers overseas, according to Minister of Manpower Fahmi Idris.

President B.J. Habibie is scheduled to issue the decree on the establishment of the agency next week, Fahmi told The Jakarta Post on Friday. He would chair the agency, and work in cooperation with local labor exporters.

"The agency will provide for workers a one-roof service in bank credit facilities, passports, insurance schemes and ticketing," he said.

The minister added the agency was established following rampant abuse of migrant workers both here and abroad at almost all stages of their recruitment and employment, until their arrival home.

"These abuses must be curbed," he said.

He described how brokers extorted money from workers in their home villages and in buses transporting them to and from the airports, while employers and insurance firms abandoned them at the first signs of trouble.

"At present, hundreds of Indonesian workers are still stranded in Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. No labor exporters or insurance firms have extended help to them," he said.

He said he was disappointed with the labor exporters that were only seeking profit while failing to protect the workers or improve their welfare.

He said the labor export companies have rejected the government's campaigns to cut red tape precisely because they were afraid efficiency would reduce their profits.

Fahmi expressed hope the agency would help increase labor exports, and help ease unemployment at home.

Around 1.2 million Indonesian workers are currently working overseas sending home US$3.5 million annually.

Fahmi also revealed the ministry was currently over-staffed with poor quality human resources, leading to inefficiency. Expressing concern, he said the ministry offices across the country could have been manned by only 9,000 of the current 23,000 staff.

More than 60 percent of them were high school graduates.

Fahmi said he gives his monthly salary of Rp 5 million to add to the Rp 35 million tactical funds allocated for campaigns to improve employees' welfare.

He said the same problem of overstaffing also affected other ministries. (rms)