This particular day is worth commemorating, especially for Indonesia whose migrant workers are dubbed the countrys foreign exchange heroes.
According to data released by the National Migrant Laborers Protection and Placement Agency, Indonesia placed 97,349 workers overseas in the first half of 2016 alone.
The number is relatively low compared to the same period in 2015 where 120,965 Indonesian workers migrated to another country for both formal and informal jobs. During prior years, the numbers were significantly higher.
Despite their contribution to the country, Indonesian migrant workers are often exposed to various forms of exploitation and modern slavery, especially those working in the informal sector, including domestic workers, caregivers, housekeepers, fishermen and plantation workers.
Irham Ali Saifuddin, who is a Programme Officer from the International Labor Organizations Jakarta Office, said in Jakarta on December 17 that most victims of modern slavery are migrant workers.
Business before people
Executive Director of Migrant CARE Indonesia Anis Hidayah said on December 14 that the world needs to promote zero recruitment fee norm as a code of ethics.
She pointed out that in no case should migration itself become a business and it needs to be minimized to prevent anyone from turning the labor migration sector into a business opportunity.
"These fees should be imposed on the employers instead," she suggested.
Ever since Indonesia started regulating migration, she continued, issues concerning fees had come to the center stage.
"Which is why, in 1977, a Ministerial Regulation about migration was released and issues around fees were the first ones to be brought up," she recalled.
Additionally, workers should be provided complete and fair information on the destination country of work, and a detailed description of the job.
"There needs to be fair information about the working conditions. So far, recruiters do not provide fair information about destination countries. They only advertise promising aspects of the job, leaving out the risks and threats they may face when they migrate," she reiterated.
Moratorium on sending workers to the Middle East
Last year, the government, through the Ministry of Manpower, had decided to stop sending Indonesian migrant workers to 21 countries in the Middle East as part of a policy to protect its workforce, comprising mostly women, engaged in the informal sector.
One of the reasons that the government felt compelled to formulate the policy was the execution of two Indonesian migrant laborers, Siti Zaenab and Karni, in Saudi Arabia, Minister of Manpower M Hanif Dhakiri noted.
He underlined that migrant workers in Middle Eastern countries did not receive adequate protection. In May this year, Dhakiri had stated that the ban on sending domestic workers to the Middle East will not be lifted.
The policy also intends to offer better protection to migrant workers and to shift them towards the formal sector, as Dhakiri noted that Indonesian migrant workers need to become professional workers to meet the requirements of the labor market, both at home and abroad, by acquiring hard and soft skills.
In response to the moratorium, Anis Hidayah believed that the ban should serve as a temporary solution to issues revolving migrant workers, instead of being a permanent scheme.
In the meantime, Anis hoped the government will immediately review its policies regarding migrant workers, specifically, the state regulation number 39 of 2004 about the placement and protection of migrant workers.
Everyone has the right to migrate in search of a better living, should they wish to do so, she remarked.
Focusing on Education
Parahyangan Universitys Women Issues Observer Sylvia Yazid has urged every party involved to focus on education to ensure safer migration, as education will facilitate people to be aware of their rights.
Sylvia, who is also an International Relations expert, said in Jakarta on December 17, that education will give them the ability to comprehend and ultimately decide whether migrating for a job is something that they will choose or if they would prefer to make a living doing some other job, without feeling compelled to do so.
Furthermore, she believed that many Indonesian migrant workers, in fact, felt as if they have no other choice but to leave the country and work for foreign employers, due to unfulfilling living conditions.
The United Nations declaration on refugees and migration, released on September 9, states that migration has to be a choice instead of being a necessity or an obligation, she added.
Irham Ali Saifuddin from the ILO Jakarta noted that the migration phenomenon began with economic inactivity in rural areas, which is why the ILO urges for decentralized management
Initiatives by provincial governments could not materialize without support from the central authority as well as the national legislative body, he reiterated.
On December 7, the Organizations Director General, Guy Ryder, had told Antara in Nusa Dua, Bali that inclusive development was necessary for maintaining the countrys economic growth, which is very critical for job creation.
This means focusing on development in all regions of Indonesia rather than keeping it confined to only the capital and major cities, he stated.
Boosting the rural economy should be an important part of a countrys strategic planning because creating promising jobs in rural areas was as important as doing so in the capital city, Ryder stressed.
In August, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) stated that the government had changed the paradigm of development in the country, from Java-centric to Indonesia-centric and from consumption-oriented to production-oriented.
"We should also significantly improve regulations and streamline bureaucratic processes by applying information and telecommunication technology," he noted.
Indonesia must become a nation that is progressive and stands at par with other countries in the world, he remarked.
In the effort to prepare the countrys future generation, Jokowi asked the relevant ministries and state-owned companies (BUMN) to cooperate in setting up millions of vocational schools and vocational training centers, stressing that the country needed millions of them.
The president ordered the Ministry of Higher Education and Culture and the BUMN to work jointly to set up vocational schools and vocational training centers and encouraged the private sector to take part in the program, so that the facilities can also be established in other regions as well.(*)