Arlina Arshad, Singapore – A new policy that exempts Indonesian migrant workers in 10 job sectors from hefty placement fees which keep them in debt for months, and which was supposed to come into effect on Jan 15, will now be enacted on July 15 by the Indonesian government.
This will cover, among others, Indonesian domestic workers, of whom around 127,000 work in Singapore, accounting for roughly half of all foreign domestic workers here.
Mr Freddy Panggabean, acting deputy for placement and protection in Asia and Africa regions at BP2MI – the state agency in charge of migrant worker protection – told The Straits times on Tuesday (March 16) that many provincial governments were not prepared to cover the training costs of the workers, which form part of placement fees, hence the delay in enacting the policy.
Training costs would affect first-time hires, and the provincial governments could collaborate with government-owned or accredited private job training centres regarding costs, he added.
Delaying the policy from taking effect earlier was needed to smoothen coordination with the provincial governments, he said.
A "massive awareness programme" was under way, targeting eight labour-supplying provinces including those in Java, Nusa Tenggara and Sumatra islands, he added.
"We are encouraging the provincial governments to collect data on how many prospective workers there are in their respective regions, and what training should be given to them. We want the provincial governments to understand the importance of their involvement in this. Training is part of protecting workers before they are sent abroad," he said.
So far, the East Java provincial government has agreed to commit 7.9 billion rupiah (S$737,000) of its budget each year to workers' training.
Mr Panggabean said he was "optimistic that the policy will not be scrapped".
The "exemption of placement fee policy" frees workers in 10 job sectors, including domestic helpers, construction workers and caregivers, from placement fees as part of the government's efforts to protect their welfare.
Under the policy, employers in destination countries will have to foot the bill. Such employers could be government agencies, private legal entities or individuals who hire workers, the agency had said in December.
The move was cheered by migrant worker groups and domestic workers, who said employment agencies and labour brokers often inflate their rates and are not transparent in the breakdown of fees, which include accommodation, flight, medical check-up, and passport and visa processing.
Employers, however, felt they should not have to bear the extra costs, which could reach a few thousand dollars.
But Mr Panggabean said: "Domestic workers, for instance, are lowly paid and yet have to bear the burden of a placement fee. In the case of expatriates, such fees are borne by their companies."