Language requirements back on table for expats
Fedina S. Sundaryani
The Jakarta Post
The Manpower Ministry has backtracked on its decision to forgo language tests for foreign workers and now plans to reinstate Indonesian language requirements for foreigners working in Indonesia by the end of this month in order to ease the transfer of skills and technology in the country.
The head of the ministry's expatriate work permits (IMTA) for the industrial sector under the labor control directorate, Ruwiyono Septy Priharso, said the language requirement would only be applicable for foreigners looking to extend their work permits after a period of one year.
'Due to strong responses from the media and the House of Representatives, we plan to revise the regulation and reinstate the requirement, but only if a foreign worker seeks to extend his or her work permit after working for a year [in Indonesia],' he said on Thursday.
Ruwiyono said that one year should be enough for foreigners to master Indonesian and use it to transfer skills and technology.
The government had previously scrapped the Indonesian language requirement when the Manpower Ministry issued Ministerial Regulation No. 16/2015 on procedures for the employment of foreign workers in June as a revision to a 2013 regulation mandating the language requirement.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said that the government had lifted the regulation as part of its commitment to 'deregulate' all bureaucratic processes that have hampered the flow of foreign investment.
Although Ruwiyono did not delve into the specific level of proficiency, he gave assurances that there would be no government-issued proficiency tests and that companies that hired foreigners would be responsible for teaching the language and certifying their workers.
'All companies have a training unit that teaches them skills, and Indonesian should also [be taught]. So the [Indonesian language proficiency] certificate will be issued by the company to show that they can communicate in Indonesian,' he said.
Chairman of House Commission IX overseeing labor affairs, Dede Yusuf Macan Effendi, said the revision was part of a compromise made by the government and the House.
Dede said a majority of Commission IX lawmakers wanted the government to reinstate the requirement for all foreigners working in Indonesia to master Indonesian but the government argued that it would be best to scrap the policy in order to lure foreign investment and strengthen the country's weak economy.
'So in the end we agreed [on a compromise]. We said that we wanted foreign workers to be able to have proof that they can communicate in Indonesian because if they want to extend their work permit it means they are comfortable working in this country. It is also important in order for the transfer of technology to happen,' he told The Jakarta Post.
Dede added that the ability to communicate in Indonesian was also important as Ministerial Regulation No. 16/2015 stipulated that for every foreign worker, companies needed to hire 10 local workers within a year.
'How will [the foreign workers] be able to communicate with their 10 other coworkers if they can't speak the language?' he said.
Data from the Manpower Ministry on IMTA show that the number of foreign workers in Indonesia in 2014 was 68,762, lower than 72,427 in 2012.
China accounts for the largest expat community with 16,328 nationals, closely followed by Japan, South Korea, India and Malaysia.
The majority of expats work in the trade and services sectors, with 21,751 categorized as professionals and 15,172 as advisers or consultants.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Mixed-Marriage Society (PerCa Indonesia), a group that advocates for the rights of mixed-nationality couples, said it was logical for the government to require basic Indonesian skills from foreign workers.
'The government must make the requirement clear and detailed or else it may scare off foreign investors,' chairwoman Juliani W. Luthan, whose husband is Japanese, said.
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