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Job Opportunities in Indonesia

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									Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                           1

A REVIEW OF RESEARCH WORK
ON INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION IN INDONESIA
Suko Bandiyono and Fadjri Alihar

Abstract
International migration is a response to changes in the socio-economic conditions between countries as people
attempt to improve their standards of living. The degree of international migration in Indonesia is relatively low,
both in terms of people coming in (immigrants) and those leaving the country (emigrants), and studies discussing
this issue are also still very limited. It follows, therefore, that information or knowledge concerning international
migration is also still limited. In general, this paper attempts to point out the problems surrounding international
migration in Indonesia, particularly issues concerning migrant labour, both legal and illegal.
The impact of international migration has led to social and economic changes, mainly in the field of employment
and the labour market, especially for unskilled and the low educated workers. In order to improve our
understanding of international migration, there is a need for macro studies, which should also be perfected or
backed-up by micro studies.

Introduction
International migration has been going on in Indonesia for some time now, although studies concerning this issue
have just commenced. Because of this, availability of information on international migration is still very limited. Up
till now, studies on migration in Indonesia have mainly focused on internal migration, which among others, addresses
the pattern of migration between provinces/islands, the rural-urban migration and urbanization, transmigration and
non-permanent mobility.
Studies on international migration in Indonesia have been conducted only during the last two decades, perhaps as a
response to the rapid globalization process, which has also intensified during the same period of time. Since Repelita
II, the number of Indonesians working abroad has been steadily increasing, there has also been increasing importance
attached to the understanding of border-related issues and an increasing number of foreign workers in Indonesia
following substantial foreign investments in the country.
This paper intends to describe studies on international migration in Indonesia, and the desire for further research in
the same direction. The paper will not, however, include issues of non-permanent international mobility, although
research on this aspect has already been conducted by PPT-LIPI during the last five years.

The Phenomenon of International Migration
In population studies, there is the concept of migration, and this can be sub-divided into permanent and non-
permanent migration although both are intricate and elusive in terms of definition. The form of permanent migration
discussed in this paper will be limited to the type that is spontaneous in nature, as well as labour migration. In this
case, spontaneous migrants refer to those people who move across international borders not in the context of going to
take up jobs on a contact basis, nor is it those who illegally enter other countries hunting for employment prospects.
There are two typologies of the Indonesian labour force. There are those who migrate legally and those who do so
illegally. The travel arrangements and other formalities for workers who go abroad legally are currently processed by
the government in liaison with the organizations that handle the migration activities of these workers. The export of
Indonesian workers is coordinated by the Department of Labour through AKAN. The sending or ferrying exercise,
on the other hand, is carried out by the organizations in charge (PJTKI).

Spontaneous Migration
Examined from a historical point of view, international migration in Indonesia has been an ongoing process for a
very long time. It began with the period when there was a wave of migrants from mainland Asian, was followed by
the coming of the Europeans, and then by the wave of migrants from Indonesia to Madagascar. Today, the
phenomenon of international migration has gained increasing importance in the context of Indonesia's relationship
with neighboring countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Among the people who migrate to and ultimately reside in Sabah, Malaysia besides the Tidung people, are also
ethnic Chinese and other groups of people originating from Indonesian provinces like South Sulawesi, Nusa
Tenggara and Sumatra. Based on information obtained from a number of elders living around the border areas of
East Kalimantan, most of the migrants living in Sabah were there long before the signing of the Border Crossing
Agreement in 1972. Some of them migrated to Malaysia in response to economic problems, while some were
running away from the rebellions that plagued Indonesia in the 1940s. Many of them joined the armed forces, some
were employed in the palaces, while others entered the agricultural sector. It is, therefore, the existence of these
Indonesians who have acquired Malaysian citizenship that ultimately created very conducive conditions for a
subsequent wave of illegal migration to Malaysia.
Research conducted by PPT-LIPI found out that permanent emigration also takes place in Sangihe-Talaud where the
destination for most people from that region is the southern part of the Philippines, mainly in the islands of Balut and
Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                         2

Saranggane. The number of migrants from this place is estimated to be around 3000 households. The background to
this kind of migration is the influence of the geographical factor and the poor socio-economic conditions of the
communities here, as well as the existence of strong family ties. These people have been living in the Philippines
since the last century, and there has been a lot of inter marriage with the local communities since then.
From 1970, however, employment opportunities began to expand in the southern Philippines especially in the
coconut plantations, dock labourers, and in factories (Raharto, et al. 1995).
With time, however, the security and economic situation in the Philippines began to deteriorate, while on the other
hand, the economic conditions in Indonesia were getting better. This situation made these migrants return to
Indonesia. Most of the returnee migrants from the Philippines settled in Oba Sub-district, in Central Halmahere, and
then Galela Sub-district in Northern Maluku. The wave of migration of these people of Sangir constitutes a kind of
family migration pattern. These returnees totaling about 2000 people were able to readapt themselves to their new
environment (Bandiyono, 1995).
Emigration also takes place in the island of Irian Jaya to Papua New Guinea. Most of the people involved in this
wave of migration are political migrants, who can then be divided into those who are opposed to the government of
Indonesia (OPM), and those who are forced into captivity by the rebels to join the anti-government movement. The
first category are well known as the Gerombolan Papua Merdeka - GPK (The Papua Independence Movement),
whereas the second category is composed of those forced into refuge in Papua New Guinea. It should be noted here
that these political refugees to Papua New Guinea do not only comprise the local population but also the educated
middle class including university lecturers, students and even those from the armed forces.
This wave of migration to Papua New Guinea has been an ongoing process since 1968, and the largest volume was
registered during the period 1984-1987. The total number of migrants to Papua New Guinea is estimated to be
20,000 people, most of whom are from Jayapura and Marauke (Bandiyono, 1997). In Papua New Guinea, most of
these migrants live in 16 major locations in the Western Province and in West Sepik (Preston, 1992). From 1987
however, there has been a reverse flow of migrants back to Indonesia. This is because the kind of life they
experienced in Papua New Guinea fell below their expectations as promised by their captors, the GPK rebels. Also,
they were also very unwelcome aliens among the Papuan communities since they inflicted extra pressure in the
labour market and the few jobs available (Bandiyono, 1997).
Political emigration is also a very common phenomenon in East Timor. Within the period 1979-1993, an estimated
1302 people left the country, 1043 of them to Portugal, 182 to Australia, 76 to Cape Verde and 1 to Macao. In 1995
alone, 200 people were seeking visas to join their families in Portugal and Australia (Bandiyono, 1995).

Migration of Indonesian Workers
Besides the issue of spontaneous migration discussed earlier, Indonesia has also sent contract workers abroad. There
are also many illegal migrant workers who enter Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. (see data on the table
below).
     Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                        3


      Total Number and Distribution of Indonesian Workers 1974-1997
Destination              RRepelita III    Repelita IV   Repelita V Repelita VI          Gender (%)       Total
                         e
                         p
                         e
                         l
                         i
                         t
                         a

                          I
                          I
country             (1974 (197br9/1984)   (1984/1989)     (1989/1994) (1994/1999) Male         Female    N            %
                    /1979
                    )
Saudi Arabia        3,817 55,976         223,576          268,858     267,191       6.76       48.86     267,191      32.81
Other Middle East   1,235 5,349          3,428            5,145       16,071        0.26       3.03      16,078       1.97
Malaysia/ Brunei    536 11,441           38,705           130,735     392,512       70.30      34.58     392,512      48.20
Singapore/Hong      3,729 6,768          12,272           38,071      80,222        6.13       12.14     80,222       9.85
Kong
Korea/Taiwan/Japan 451 920               573              6,153       45,256        12.36      1.37      45,256       5.56
Others              7,274 15,956         13,711           17,010      13,100        4.19       0.01      13,156       1.62
Total               17,04 96,410         292,262          465,972     814,352       100.0      100.0     814,352      100.0
                    2
      Source: Hugo, 1995: 297
      Data from the Department of Labour, cited in Tirtosudarmo and Romdiati (1998).


     Based on the above data, it is apparent that the number of Indonesian workers going abroad has been steadily
     increasing, which is in line with government policy and is connected to economic reasons and to the effort to solve
     domestic labour problems. The export of labour is like any other export commodity that can earn the country foreign
     exchange and can also reduce the chronic unemployment problem in the country.
     In terms of percentage, the number of Indonesian workers leaving the country until Repelita VI (Indonesian
     Government Long-Term Development Plan VI), have mostly gone to Malaysia (48%) and Saudi Arabia (33%).
     More than two thirds of those who migrate to Malaysia are men, and those who go to Saudi Arabia are mostly
     women. The pattern and trend of this Indonesian labour migration has significantly changed since the 1980s. Before
     1980, most of the migrant workers from Indonesia went to developed countries outside Asia (mainly to the United
     States of America, Europe and Australia), but thereafter, the destination has been mainly to other Asian countries
     (Firdausy, 1996).
     One very important aspect which should be addressed while seeking to understand the phenomenon of international
     labour migration is the position of Indonesia at international level in terms of the migrant labour issue (Skeldon,
     1992). Recorded figures indicate that the number of Indonesian workers going abroad is very small compared with
     migrant workers from neighboring countries like Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines.
     In 1989, for instance, the number of Indonesians who migrated to the United States was only 1600 people, whereas
     those from Thailand and South Korea totaled more than 20,000 people, and those from the Philippines alone
     amounted to close to 60,000 people (Soek, 1985, Arcinas, 1985, and Nair, 1995).
     This era of free world trade, which is facilitated by a more efficient transport and information infrastructure has
     accelerated the process of international labour migration. This migration of labour occurs mainly because of the
     existence of differences or inequalities between countries particularly in access to economic opportunities. As a
     community response to these differences, there is increasing awareness about the pressures to engage in migration to
     places with more promising job opportunities. Generally, labour migration originates from places with excess labour
     supply and low incomes to places with high labour demand and prospects for higher wages (Bandiono, 1996).
     Studies on Indonesian international migration indicate that migrants of Indonesian origin are characterized by low
     education, limited knowledge and skills and are aged between 15 and 40. Many Indonesian migrant workers have got
     low work ethics as compared with workers from other Asian countries like Thailand, Philippines and South Korea
     (Skeldon, 1992). The low quality of Indonesian migrant workers means their awareness about their rights is also low.
     Because of that, they become extremely vulnerable and stand a potential risk of being objects of misuse and
     exploitation through practices like low pay, torture, long work hours and engagement in multiple tasks (Kassim,
Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                            4

1996). Besides that, they are also subject to exploitation by their recruiters (Tirtosudarno, 1998; Hugo. 195;
Bandiyono. 1998; Spaan. 1994).
Although international migration only contributes US $ 800 million or 0.2% of Indonesian GDP (Tjiptoheriyanto,
1996), micro studies indicate that international migration makes a significant contribution to regional development
and to the lives of the members of a migrants‟ family. There is a negative impact as well (Hugo, 1994; Romdiati,
1997; Goma, 1993; Kallau, 1988).
Considering the risks and benefits involved in labour migration, the government of Indonesia has put up policies to
govern the export of labour (Repilita VI, Book II). The polices are to increase the number of Indonesian workers
going abroad legally, and to increase the export of qualified and skilled Indonesian workers. In February 1998, the
Minister for Women Affairs prohibited the export of women as domestic workers.

Contract Workers
Contract migrant workers working abroad are obtained from AKAN. They set off for their respective foreign
destinations through the PJTKI, which has already been arranged in cooperation with organizations handling migrant
labour force arrangements in the respective destination countries, after obtaining permission from the respective
governments. Generally, most migrant labourers are from families with a poor socio-economic base, so that
economic reasons are ultimately the major factor forcing them to migrate (Tirtosudarmo, 1988; Goma, 1993;
Puslitbang Tenaga Kerja, 1991). Most leave the country before acquiring the necessary work skills.
Studies have found that, of the migrants originating from West Java, only 11% of them had the skills for cooking,
whereas for those from East Java, 20% of them had the same skills. On the other hand, it was found out that only 2%
and 10% of the migrants from West Java and East Java respectively had the skills for tailoring (labour Puslitbang,
1991).
In their research examining West Java as a migrant area of origin, Tirtosudarmo and Romdiat (1998), found that the
knowledge of returning migrants about the process of migration was very limited. Knowledge about their rights and
obligations were not sufficient either, they had little knowledge about life in Saudi Arabia, and they even had
difficulties in filling in the application forms.
The Indonesian legal migrant workers in Malaysia are estimated to comprise 83% of the total foreign workers or
276,000 people in Malaysia. They are limited to three sectors, plantations, domestic services, and construction. But
since 1993, their employment has been extended to other sectors like manufacturing, attendants at filling stations,
and as cleaners. Out of the formal migrant labourers from Indonesia, 70% of them work in plantations and in the
construction sector. Their wages vary with the category of work they do. For example, those working in factories
earn an average of 400 Ringgit, those working on plantations earn 350 Ringgit and house maids earn 300 Ringgit in
1988. By 1988, the 12,400 Indonesian migrant workers living around Kuala Lumpur had grouped themselves into 23
“Indonesia Villages”. They were living under very appalling environmental conditions with a household comprising
between three and twenty-one people under a single roof (Kassim, 1996).
As seen in the figures on the above table, the number of Indonesian women workers to Saudi Arabia far outnumbers
men. Most of these women work as housemaids and are either widowed or married. Most men, on the other hand,
work as drivers or technicians. Most women who are employed as housemaids work in conditions of total isolation
which makes it extremely difficult for them to have access to any information or create some kind of information
network or social assistance. This situation makes them extremely vulnerable and inevitable victims of exploitation
(TirtoSudarmo, 1998). This situation is even more alarming when it is related with the duration of the period of job
contract, which is normally more than 2 years. Moreover, there are others whose duration of contract is not known at
all (Mantra, 1986). Those in this category find it extremely difficult to terminate their contracts in case they run into
trouble with the employer.

Illegal Workers
The phenomenon of illegal migrant labour is important for discussion because it creates a number of problems that
are difficult to control. The process of illegal labour migration abroad is done in a berantai manner and has been
going for a long time. Illegal Indonesian migrants do not only go to neighboring countries like Malaysia and
Singapore, but also to countries like Saudi Arabia.
It is difficult to obtain accurate data about this illegal migration to the above-mentioned countries, since the exercise
is not officially recorded. Although this is generally the case, Habir (1984) estimates the number of Illegal migrant
workers in Malaysia to be between 200,000 - 300.000 people. Illegal migrants to Malaysia follow two main routes,
that is from East Java, Lombok and North Sumatra through East Sumatra, mainly Riau, to Semenanjung in Malaysia
(Johore). The secong route connects from Flores and South Sulawesi to East Kalimantan and then to Eastern
Malaysia, mainly Sabah (Hugo, 1996).
The illegal migrant workers in Malaysia are always vulnerable to being deported, especially since the Nyah II
operation of 1992. They no longer have access to formal facilities like schools, hospitals, or even banking facilities.
The problem of illegal workers in Malaysia, particularly for the Malaysian Kingdom is quite dramatic and there is a
growing conflict of interest within various groups of people in Malaysia more so, in the political circles
Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                          5

(Tiltosudarmo, 1996; Kasim, 1996). The results of research conducted by PPT-LIPI 1987 at the East Kalimantan
border indicate that migrants at the customs check point to Tawau usually use visas for family visits for only a period
of one month. However, after reaching Sabah through their recruiters or friends, they look for jobs and consequently
become illegal workers. According to the data available at the migration offices at Nanukan, there are 36,000
Indonesian workers at Sabah, 67% of whom are men. These male labourers are mostly found in field employment,
and more so in dirty jobs like plantation workers and lumbering (timber works). On the other hand, Indonesian
female workers are mainly employed as housemaids, cooks, and there are even those who are prostitutes. The illegal
workers found at Sabah are composed of mainly of Indonesians from South Sulawesi (13,000), East Nusa Tenggara
(11,000), West Nusa Tenggara (5,000), and East Java (4,000).
Most of those arrested by the police are deported. Between 1994 and July 1996, the number of illegal workers
deported from Tawau alone totaled 18,652 people. Those who are arrested by the Malaysian security personnel are
sometimes set free after paying a fee of about 20 ringgit. There are also some „Good Samaritans‟ who assist them
with money amounting to 1500 ringgit to obtain the SPLP. With the help of their recruiters, all those who are
deported ultimately return to Sabah (Bandiyono, 1988). The same researcher found that in November 1997, around
35,000 Indonesian migrant workers, the majority of whom were housemaids, were deported by the Saudi Arabian
government. Likewise, in December 1997, the Indonesian government announced that about 1,000,000 foreign
workers would be deported to their countries of origin because of the monetary crisis. It is estimated that 400,000
Indonesian migrant workers will be deported from Malaysia. This will increase the already explosive unemployment
figure that is estimated to exceed 10 million people in 1998.

Foreign Workers
Also, the number of foreign workers entering Indonesia is increasing from year to year. This tendency is closely
related to the high rate of development in the country, particularly in sectors that use foreign capital. In 1987, the
number of foreigners working in Indonesia was 19,000. This number increased to 75,000 in 1990 (Fadjri and
Soekidjo, 1992). Many of them were sent to monitor the use of funds provided by their home governments for the
development of Indonesia. Besides that, there was also the open door policy implemented by the government of
Indonesia as it prepares to enter the era of globalization, which has continued to attract more and more foreign
workers to the country.
Compared with Indonesians working abroad, the foreigners working in Indonesia are selectively recruited, especially
from the view point of education and skills, and most of them are employed as expatriates. The majority of these
foreign workers operate as technical staff, amounting to 21,000 people. Foreigners working as directors and
professionals are 21,000 and 12,000 respectively (Fadjri and Soekidjo, 1992), and most of them are employed in the
industrial sector.
Besides the foreigners who obtain work permits, there are also those who work illegally, that is, they work without
government permission. These foreigners usually enter the country using tourist visas yet their main objective is to
look for employment. Most of them work in foreign organizations and in hotels. Those in the hotel sector mainly
work as entertainers (prostitutes) and most of them are from Thailand and the Philippines. One of the consequences
of the inflow of foreign workers to Indonesia is increased competition for the limited job opportunities, particularly
in sectors that require high education and skills. As is generally the case, most foreign workers occupy key positions
that are decisive in the job bureaucracy and decision making. There is however, a major concern related to the
quality of workers. This is because the situation may ultimately have a negative impact on the Indonesian workers. If
this problem is not appropriately addressed by the government, there is every possibility that Indonesian workers will
one day be totally downgraded and will remain as mere spectators or onlookers to foreign workers in their own
home.

Research Obstacles and Priorities
Researches on international migration in Indonesia are still limited up to today, although the phenomenon has been
under way for a long time. This is because researchers have been paying more attention to internal migration in
Indonesia as one of the consequences of development. The issue of international migration has been known and felt
over the last two decades, whereby the flow of migrants outside Indonesia has been increasing and has created
problems in bilateral relations. In future, the issue of international migration will become even more significant
considering the process of globalization.
Studies on international migration in Indonesia have so far generally addressed particular cases and have not
discussed the issue comprehensively enough. One of the main obstacles has been the unavailability of macro data.
The population census has not yet prioritized the need for international migration data.
The only issue addressed in the population census is the place of birth or place of residence before going abroad. The
formal data that is available with AKAN is strictly limited to contract workers and there is no systematic data
concerning those returning from abroad. Data on migration has told us little about international migration based on
this typology. What is the situation with illegal migrant workers?. Information about methodology is limited and this
data has its own limitations, although theories of international migration have been developed (Stahl, 1995).
Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                         6

Researches on international migration that are conducted by local (Indonesians) researchers are limited to Indonesia.
These researches are carried out either by conducting surveys in the area of origin or by analyzing secondary data.
This is basically due to the limited research funds available and government regulations which limit research within
the country if one is conducting government-sponsored research. Researchers on Indonesian migrant workers mostly
interview returnee migrants. Thus, our knowledge about the behavior of migrants while in their place of work abroad
is limited. One of the important issues which must get research priority is the Indonesian migrant workers abroad in
relation to the labour market, knowledge and technological transfer. Another important issue that should be
addressed is population mobility, particularly in areas of growth like BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT. In these areas,
there are a number of aspects related to the use of human resources both domestic and foreign. In this case, there is
need for the research to investigate the preparation of human resources whether migrant or non-migrant. Population
migration is important from the viewpoint of labour market. This is because migrant labour whether internal or
international plays an important role in the creation of the pattern of the labour market (Widarti and Bandiono,
1996).
Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                        7

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Sukamdi and Abdul Haris                                                        8

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