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Outcry over female workers' treatment

Government only cares about revenue, says NGO

Nur Harsono hits out at the government on migrant workers' rights (Photo Ryan Dagur)  Nur Harsono hits out at the government on migrant workers' rights (Photo Ryan Dagur)
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • October 24, 2012
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A Jakarta-based NGO yesterday accused the government of treating around 3.8 million of the country’s female migrant workers as a commodity and failing to protect them and their rights.

Many of them are working for little or no pay with some being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, it said, adding that the government appeared to see profits generated by private recruitment agencies as a source of income and is not looking at the welfare of workers.

“The government only thinks of revenue, while there are problems with the recruitment process and no safeguards for those already working overseas,” Nur Harsono, coordinator of the advocacy division of Migrant Care, said yesterday in Jakarta.

According to 2012 data gathered by the NGO, 45.50 percent of female migrant workers have never received payment, 9.93 percent have been subjected to violence, 3.99 percent suffered sexual abuse, and 10.01 percent are overworked.

Most migrant workers head for destination countries such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea, where women mostly serve as domestic servants.

“These problems remain unresolved and no adequate efforts, such as the introduction of regulations, are being made to address this,” Harsono said.

Private recruitment agencies are being given a virtually free hand to do what they like, he added.

Typically, private agencies collect fees of around four million rupiah (about US$421) from a migrant worker before they go to their destination country. They also take money from a worker’s pay packet, according to Migrant Care.

“The government needs to shift the paradigm for migrant workers … from a paradigm of business to one of human rights,” Harsono asserted.

The government admits problems do exist in guaranteeing protection for migrant workers.

Manpower and Transmigration Ministry spokesperson Dita Indah Sari acknowledged that a lack of regulation has meant that “there are many irregularities.”

However, she said, the government is taking steps to try and improve everything related to migrant workers, including the recruitment process.

We are also “building diplomatic ties with host countries in order to protect our migrant workers, particularly women who are vulnerable to unfair treatment,” she continued.

Related reports

Migrant workers ‘must get protection’
Indonesia urged to protect its workers
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