The Jakarta Post
The government plans to start in-person training courses in August under its preemployment card program, despite the daily surge in new COVID-19 cases since it started easing the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in early June.
“We hope to open [the courses] in areas unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic or in those [areas] where the situation has improved, all while complying with the health protocols,” Rudy Salahuddin, who heads the program's job creation management committee, said at a virtual press conference on Monday.
The government has announced its plan amid the worsening trend in the nation's COVID-19 daily tally, which has surpassed 1,000 cases since June. The country recorded 1,282 new cases on Monday and 1,591 new cases on Tuesday, with official data showing 78,572 cumulative cases to date.
Also on Monday, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization cautioned at its daily press briefing that "too many countries are headed in the wrong direction".
Regardless, the plan to start holding offline courses is in keeping with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo's push to transition to the so-called new normal phase, which aims to reopen the economy while maintaining strict health protocols.
The preemployment card program is one of Jokowi's reelection campaign promises and was originally designed as an upskilling and reskilling program. The government redesigned it as an incentivized training program earlier this year as part of its COVID-19 safety net strategy.
The program has eight digital platform "partners" to offer around 3,800 online training courses and a monthly allowance on completion of the training component. Eligible applicants are workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a direct economic impact of the health crisis, as well as owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The government on July 8 issued Presidential Regulation (Perpres) No. 76/2020, under which the program was expanded to include offline training courses.
Susiwijono Moegiarso, secretary to the Coordinating Economic Minister, said on Monday that the Perpres was intended to revive the preemployment card following its suspension in response to the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) report on irregularities in the program.
The government is now aiming to reopen registration in late July for up to 500,000 applicants.
Since its launch in mid-April, the preemployment card program has attracted 11.3 million applicants across the country and accepted 680,000 eligible participants, around half of whom are laid-off workers.
“Many factors are pushing us to roll out the program’s next phase as soon as possible,” said Susiwijono, citing the high number of layoffs and the economic slowdown as among the factors.
The pandemic has caused Indonesia’s economic growth to contract to 2.97 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace in 19 years, due to the slump in consumption and investment.
In response, many businesses took downsizing measures that resulted in 3 million layoffs and furloughs by May, according to the Manpower Ministry's data.
“This includes laid-off and furloughed workers and [SME] owners whose businesses were hit by COVID-19,” said Bambag Satrio Lelono, the Manpower Ministry’s director general for training and productivity supervision.
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The preemployment card program prioritizes disbursing its cash allowance of Rp 3.5 million (US$242.71) per eligible participant according to the Manpower Ministry's registry.
With a budget of Rp 20 trillion for this year, the program can assist up to 5.6 million eligible participants in staying afloat during the health crisis.
As of July 14, Indonesia recorded the 26th highest number of COVID-19 cases among 213 affected countries in the world.