Indonesian migrant workers, seen in Indonesia as remittance “heroes and heroines,” currently have to bear all the costs before departing for a foreign destination for employment opportunities. The Indonesian government planned to exempt them from all the pre-employment fees by January 15, but it has announced a postponement of the new policy.

A law, which passed last July, stipulates that Indonesian migrant workers should not be required to pay placement fees. Based on the new rule, the Indonesian government and foreign employers of migrant workers will split the fees, with the latter footing most of the bill.

BP2MI, Indonesia’s state agency in charge of migrant worker protection, had planned to carry out the policy after a transition period of six months, but it announced today that it will delay the implementation of the “exemption of placement fee policy” by another six months. The policy was scheduled to take effect today.

Benny Rhamdani, the head of the agency, explained that most Indonesian provinces do not have the budget to cover the costs for migrant workers yet. Under the new scheme, local governments will have to fund the work permit application and pre-departure training for migrant workers.

Rhamdani said he will continue communicating with local government officials to carry out the policy, but will step down if the next deadline of implementation is not met. He added that he does not hope to see migrant workers forced into debt after paying placement fees.

Budget is not the only obstacle that the Indonesian government faces in pushing forward the plan. Many foreign employers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore resisted the new policy, claiming that hiring Indonesian migrant workers will become too expensive.

Last August, Taiwanese employers, many elderly or disabled, rallied outside the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office (IETO) in Taipei to call on the government to reject Indonesia’s unilateral decision to pass the costs on to the employers.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor (MOL) also said in November it will not accept Indonesia’s terms, after the de facto Indonesian embassy in Taiwan sent a letter to the ministry to notify the policy change.

Rhamdani said BP2MI has been in talks with foreign governments about implementing the policy. Indonesian authorities were scheduled to discuss the matter with their Taiwanese counterparts for the second time on Thursday, a day before the plan takes effect, but they put off the meeting without offering a reason on Wednesday.

MOL will ask the IETO to arrange further meetings, said Hsueh Chien-chung, a section chief at the MOL's Workforce Development Agency.

Hsueh also said the government will only sign an agreement after fully expressing its opinions and reaching a consensus on the matter with Indonesian officials.

Indonesia is the main source of migrant workers for Taiwan, with more than 77% caregivers and domestic workers in Taiwan hailing from Indonesia.

The new rule applies to 10 categories of workers, such as caregivers and domestic workers, who are most likely to be subject to exploitation and physical violence, said Rhamdani. Factory workers are not yet included.

Taiwanese employers, including the elderly and people with disabilities, are concerned that they cannot afford to hire migrant workers if they are obliged to pay pre-employment fees, but at the same time, they need caregivers to help with daily activities.

To hire a worker under this new law, foreign employers would pay an extra NT$70,000 to NT$100,000 to pay for roundtrip airline tickets, passport and visa application, physical checkups, among other expenses.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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