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Jakarta Post

Roughly 110,000 complete preemployment card courses, entitling them to cash assistance

  • Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 30, 2020   /   03:26 pm
Roughly 110,000 complete preemployment card courses, entitling them to cash assistance Workers build cars at a Mercedes-Benz Indonesia assembly plant in Wanaherang, Gunung Putri, Bogor, West Java, on Oct. 12, 2019. (Antara/M Risyal Hidayat)

Around 110,000 eligible recipients of the preemployment card, a government-funded unemployment benefit and skill training program, have completed their courses, entitling them to receive cash assistance, an official has said.

The program management’s executive director, Denni Purbasari, said in Jakarta Wednesday that some of the most popular courses were on English, online business, barista skills, coffee shop management, interviewing and spreadsheet application Microsoft Excel. Such courses cost between Rp 24,000 (US$1.57) and more than Rp 1 million.

As many as 223 training institutions are involved in the program, providing more than 2,000 courses on various subjects through eight online learning platforms, including Skill Academy, Bukalapak, Tokopedia and Sisnaker. Denni said her office planned to team up with more training institutions to “provide as many options as possible to the 5.6 million recipients”.

As of Tuesday, more than 8.6 million applicants had registered to receive Rp 3.55 million in benefits. “We want the people who receive the preemployment card to not just be employees, but also entrepreneurs,” Denni, who formerly served as the President’s economic policy advisor, said in an online briefing on Wednesday.

The government launched the program on April 11, earlier than the initial schedule in November, to assist people laid off or furloughed because of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, which had infected more than 9,500 people nationwide, as of Wednesday. The program is also aimed at helping owners of small businesses who have lost customers.

As many as 2.2 million people have lost their jobs because of the economic downturn, according to Manpower Ministry data last updated on April 20. More than half are formal sector workers furloughed by 43,690 firms.

Executive director of the Institute of Development for Economics and Finance (INDEF) Tauhid Ahmad said Wednesday the program should offer courses on skills related to the government’s priority industries, such as tourism, in line with the 2020–2024 National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN).

Many of the more than 20,000 recipients who have taken courses via Sisnaker, an online learning platform managed by the Manpower Ministry, have studied information technology.

“The recipients might not know the needs in the labor market,” Tauhid said during the same online briefing, adding that the program management should evaluate the relevance of available courses.

However, with most nonessential businesses shutting down their operations, laid-off and furloughed workers needed cash assistance more than access to subsidized online courses, said Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia research director Piter Abdullah.

If eligible, the participants will each receive cash and training benefits worth Rp 3.55 million.  Of this, Rp 2.4 million will be disbursed as cash assistance over the course of four months after a recipient has completed a course. A further Rp 1 million is for training costs and the remaining Rp 150,000 is received for completing a survey.

“I have seen myself that laid-off workers are not able to pay their mortgages or rent,” Piter said during the same online briefing. “If they continue living under such conditions, they will be forced to move out.”

With increasing numbers of people out of work, many are struggling to even purchase food. Out of 500 households surveyed across the country, 35 percent reported a decrease in food consumption, said National Development Planning Agency deputy head of population and employment Pungky Sumadi, quoting a recent survey by J-PAL Southeast Asia.

“Therefore, we have to adjust the framework of our social safety net programs to the people’s current needs,” Pungky said in a separate online briefing on Wednesday. “The changing framework also applies to the preemployment card program.”

The government hoped the program could provide data on those vulnerable to falling into poverty, said program management chairman Rudy Salahuddin.

With other social safety net programs such as the Family Hope Program and the staple food card, the government has collected data on the poorest 40 percent of the population.

“This data is useful if we want to expand other social assistance programs in the future,” Rudy said during an online briefing Wednesday.