19 November 2010

Mr. President...

The abuse of Indonesia's migrant workers has been a problem from time immemorial. The reality is that Indonesia's migrant workers of the domestic servant kind are often thrown like lambs to the slaughter (for want of a better analogy) as they are under-skilled for the exploitation that they are about to be subject to. This has always had a high probability of ending badly for the migrant worker. Badly equates to, quite often, physical abuse at the hands of her employers, and sometimes worse.

The case of Sumiati has once again brought this very cold hard reality home.

Sadly, the President, SBY, has decided that a viable option is to equip all migrant workers with a mobile phone and a list of Embassy and Consulate numbers, presumably pre-loaded.

You really do not want to be searching for a business card while getting beaten to within an inch of your life. This is sad because the suggestion so obviously fails to see the reality that any domestic servant fronting up with a visible mobile phone of their own is likely to have it confiscated by the employer, particularly if the employer is the abusive and controlling kind.

Then again, the populist president knows his constituents are watching, so he has to say something.

I have always believed that there were large numbers of Indonesians heading to foreign locales as migrant workers. And, based on this the percentage that were subject violence was relatively small in number. I was not of the impression that there was a majority of migrant workers that were subject to violence. I will now do a little research and see if I can track down some statistics on the level of abuse.

So, it is within this understanding I wonder whether it is possible to eradicate all instances of violence? I am not suggesting that the Indonesian government throw up its hands and say that the numbers of victims considering the sheer numbers of migrant workers is acceptable.

To the contrary, perhaps a more comprehensive, and validated, pre-departure training program needs to be enforced to ensure that those Indonesians heading overseas to work, not only have the job skills necessary to complete their work contracts, but also have sufficient language skills and knowledge of what to do, where to go, and how to navigate the processes when things go wrong.

I have read stories of Indonesian families who lock their domestic servants inside the house when they go out. So, I do wonder how the Indonesian government plans to deal with a similar scenario if it was to occur in Saudi Arabia or Malaysia. I am not convinced that a mobile phone, in and of itself, is the answer.


therry said...

this is the guy the people voted for. obviously he's level of intelligence is somewhat challenged.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Therry...

I really wonder more about why everything is so reactive when it comes to SBY? After all, isn't he the "go to guy"? So, why is it that he is seemingly incapable of being pro-active? What is he frightened of?

therry said...

people who have money, obviously. i suspect his ability to lead is bought off by whoever has subsidized his campaign and made him president.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Therry...

Such a cynic! ;)

But, it does seem that his inability to act may be related to him feeling beholden to special interests.

It is, after all, the only thing that could explain his complete failure to act on the Sidoarjo front, among others.

pj said...

Cellphones? He's not serious is he?

I'm not sure what actions the Indonesian government can take. They won't do too much to endanger their haj privileges or their foreign remittances. If they stop the export of workers to the Kingdom the saudis will just get workers from somewhere else and Indonesia will face the social problem of several hundred thousand unemployed mouths to feed. They might look into forming a domestic worker cartel with other countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, The Phillipines and Egypt (as a start).

At least there is some public outrage this time round. Its a start.

Rob Baiton said...

@ PJ...

Working backwards.

Yeah, the public outrage is an interesting development. Now, the big question is whether or not the government can harness this anger into effective change on the ground in Saudi Arabia.

A cartel of countries leading the way in the supply of migrant workers is an idea worth exploring a little further.

That has been my point here are elsewhere when responding to those who are saying "screw Saudi Arabia let's not send TKI there". Unfortunately, the Saudis will just go "whatever" and get their domestic and construction labour from elsewhere.

The remittances are huge. I once wrote about this for work, but I cannot recall the numbers off the top of my head. But, the expectation (guesstimation) was that these remittances would reach into the billions of dollars (over time).

Yes, especially considering that Indonesia cannot facilitate all those Indonesians wanting to go on the Haj pilgrimage now.

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,

Giving cell phone may be one of the way to help those workers, but not the best way.

It would be better to find out the reasons why there are more than 4,000 cases in S. Arabia alone.
People suspected that the workers were unprepared to work in foreign country.
The Dept of Manpower said that before they leave each workers must be trained for at least 200 hours (20 days). Many recruitment agencies allegedly spent less time for training.

I think that the training should at least be 300-400 hours and only those who can speak foreign language and able to work can be send.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Truth be told, 4,000 is a lot of cases, particularly if there is an assumption of under or non-reporting being a feature.

Nevertheless, it is always worth working out what that is as a percentage of total numbers placed or passing through Saudi Arabia.

Training is an issue. But, the reality is that some of these problems will not be remedied by training alone. It is time to accept that there are people out there who are just abusers of other people.

For example, it might not have mattered in Sumiati's case even if she had 1000 hours of training if her boss just enjoyed abusing his domestic servant.

On the home front. The GOI really does have to get serious about enforcing the prevailing laws and regulations. Recruitment and placement companies that cut corners and send TKI who are under or unprepared must be punished.

On the language front. Perhaps some kind of TOEFL equivalent for whatever language is used where the TKI is to be placed.

In all honesty, fluency is not essential. Fluency is a bonus if it is there. But, most employers are not looking to engage in deep philosophical conversation and discussion with their domestic servants. It is more along the lines of "iron my shirt!" and getting an ironed shirt back and not a pair of undies.

Just some thoughts.

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