P.C. Young, 42, decided to relocate to Indonesia from South Korea early last year to help run the family business of making shoes for the export market.
With the business becoming more promising, his family’s plant in Cikarang, West Java, received more orders, which eventually earned Young more than he did in South Korea.
“What more can you hope for? I earn more here, plus the living costs are far cheaper than in Korea,” Young said.
Young is among 55,010 foreigners who have working visas in Indonesia, a figure which, according to the directorate general of immigration, rose by 10 percent last year compared with 2010.
Despite the negative news coverage of Indonesia worldwide concerning Islamic extremism, terrorist threats, natural disasters, rampant corruption and deteriorating hygiene, the country is attracting more foreign nationals than ever.
A thriving economy, low cultural barriers, a friendly atmosphere and political stability have apparently quashed such concerns, luring more foreigners to head for Indonesia, rather than scaring them away.
The number of foreign residents in Indonesia, excluding tourists and foreign emissaries, rose by 6 percent to 111,752 last year, according to immigration office statistics — a copy of which was obtained recently by The Jakarta Post.
Aside from the expatriates, the figure also includes the principal expatriates’ family members, students, business owners and NGO workers.
“Economic factors have played a role in attracting foreigners. It’s a good sign, as we are now considered a safe and promising country,” said the director general of immigration, Bambang Irawan, recently.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has seen economic growth average at more than 6 percent annually over the past five years, with foreign direct investment (FDI) soaring into double digits.
Realized investment in the first nine months of last year at US$14.7 billion had already surpassed the total 2010 figure of $13.4 billion, according to Bank Indonesia.
Industry and manufacturing, trade, mining, education and construction sectors absorbed most of the expatriates last year.
The industrial and manufacturing sectors attracted the most foreign workers, rising by 18 percent to 16,084 from 13,045 in 2010, according to the immigration office.
“The rise in FDI has to some degree contributed to the soaring inflow of expatriates,” said the Industry Ministry’s director general of international industrial relationships, Agus Cahyana.
“They mostly take high-level positions in companies,” Agus said.
The inflow of foreign nationals has also contributed to boosting the local economy with the sprouting of restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and apartments catering to expatriates, especially in Greater Jakarta.
While data detailing which nationalities are granted the highest number of working visas is not publicly available, it is possible to infer the origin of most foreign nationals by looking at the number of visas issued for stays of between six months and one year.
Most of those visas are issued to Chinese, Japanese, South Korean Indian, US and Australian nationals.