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Brain drain: Calls mount for dual citizenship in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - August 10, 2023

Radhiyya Indra, Jakarta – At the tail end of his master's degree course in Singapore, 24-year-old Bagas from South Tangerang, Banten, ponders if he should stay to work there or return home.

"I'm still looking for a job, but if I do get one, then I'll take it," Bagas, an information systems student at one of Singapore's renowned public universities, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Bagas is not the only one who thinks so.

Indonesia has seen a wave of young people between 25 to 35 years old emigrating to Singapore, reaching almost 4,000 people from 2019 to 2022, according to Immigration Director General Silmy Karim in July.

Last year even saw 1,091 new Singaporeans coming from Indonesia, higher than around 800 people in 2020.

The news caused a stir on social media, with many Indonesians supporting those who seek better welfare and work opportunities abroad.

But concerns about a "brain drain" also arise, as the country's vision of becoming a developed nation by 2045, a century after independence, hinges on skilled young people being the backbone of Indonesia's long-term development.

Amid the debate, calls for dual citizenship to be permitted in Indonesia have started to mount from advocacy groups and Indonesian students abroad.

According to the 2006 Citizenship Law, Indonesia does not recognize dual citizenship, except for in the case of children of one Indonesian and one non-Indonesian parent, who may hold their dual citizenship until the age of 17, after which they have three years to register their preferred nationality.

"If there was dual citizenship maybe it [would] be different. I had to let go of my Indonesian citizenship [because] the United Kingdom's wages and living standards are much higher," user @MaryamIsmah replied to a post about the news on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Facilitating the youth

Bagas sees a more profitable future in Singapore compared with Indonesia. The jobs that he seeks within the information technology (IT) fields have much higher salaries compared with his last job in one of Indonesia's biggest IT companies.

"I would really love it if we had dual citizenship in Indonesia, I think it'd be more helpful for people like me and the country as well. So why not?" Bagas said, saying that he can give back to Indonesia in numerous academic capacities while also working abroad.

Support for dual citizenship also comes from the Indonesian Mixed-Marriage Society (PerCa), which has been pushing the government to facilitate children of mixed marriages with more options and, if possible, to keep both of their nationalities.

"Our strict Citizenship Law tends to alienate [young people], it's like we're kicking them out ourselves," PerCa chairwoman Analia Trisna told the Post on Aug. 1.

PerCa sees many mixed children who prefer studying abroad with their foreign passport due to the high level of competitiveness in Indonesian public universities, as well as how expensive the private ones are, leading to many leaving Indonesia for financial reasons.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo himself called on Friday for awardees of the government's Education Endowment Fund (LPDP) to come home, even though "the wages here might be lower and other countries' facilities might be nicer."

"If President Jokowi said that we need to maximize our human resources in 2045, then these children and the country's younger generation are the country's best bet," Analia said.

Long way to go?

But discussion of dual citizenship rarely ever progresses from mere talk in Indonesia, with many noting the downsides that might arise from it.

"Dual citizenship could lead to people running away to Singapore so they don't have to pay taxes here. Meanwhile, white-collar criminals could also take refuge abroad," international law expert Hikmahanto Juwana told the Post.

Hikmahanto mentioned that a dual-citizenship option might lead people to be more "opportunistic" and have divided loyalties, a sentiment shared among many in the country.

He believes that, until Indonesia becomes prosperous and developed, the country will have a long way to go before allowing dual citizenship.

Jokowi once promised to raise the matter in 2015 after an audience with mixed-marriage families in the United States, but nothing came of it. The President himself discharged the former Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Arcandra Tahar from his post in 2016 after his dual nationality was revealed.

However, ex-Indonesians who long to be able to give something back to Indonesia, rebut arguments that a dual-nationality person might have split loyalties.

Sherley, a 45-year-old accountant in New Zealand, said that she went overseas to seek better opportunities but hated the fact that she had to let go of her national identity.

"My children were born in New Zealand and they've become citizens here, but I would definitely take any chance to get my Indonesian citizenship again," she said.

Some Indonesians also consider dual citizenship because they are critical of countries like Singapore, whose high cost of living makes it harder for them to have a good retirement there.

"I've been thinking of getting a permanent residence card at least, but I wouldn't want to stay in Singapore until I die," said 29-year-old Erik (not his real name), an Indonesian classmate of Bagas.

Source: https://asianews.network/brain-drain-calls-mount-for-dual-citizenship-in-indonesia