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Economics and Business
The Surge of Foreign Workers in AEC Era
Author : Otjih Sewandarijatun*)
The chair of Federasi Serikat Pekerja Kimia Industri dan Pertambangan (FSPKIP) Cilacap, Agus Hidayat, in an ifthar event with Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Hanif Dhakiri at the Ministry’s Regional Office in Cilacap, suggested some violation regarding the existence of Chinese workers in some big projects in Cilacap.

“In some big projects by foreign investors in Cilacap, the number of foreign workers employed is quite big. However, they not only do the work as ruled by the Law, but also doing other jobs in some prohibited levels, for instance as a foreman,” explained Agus.
Moreover, he mentioned that there is some difference in terms of salary received by Chinese workers in the same level in which theirs are much greater that local workers’ salary. “The difference can be up to 10 times bigger. This triggers questions from the local workers, why foreign workers in the same position can receive much more money than local workers,” he said.
Hearing such reports, Minister Hanif Dhakiri directly commanded his staff to investigate the case. “If the report is true, it is indeed against our Law. We will check it,” he said as if he had not known it before.
According to Fadli Zon, Chinese worker issue is a sensitive issue that must be handled carefully by the government and cannot be underestimated. The government cannot disclaim this issue as if it is merely a matter of numbers or economic issue.
“The reason why the issue of foreign workers from China May not be underestimated by the government is because the issue could no longer be regarded as labor issues per se, it has become an issue of social, political, and security. First, in its history, Indonesia has experienced ominous ethnic conflict which later became the nation's collective wounds. This foreign workers issue shall not create similar conflicts. Governments should be sensitive about this. Do not let the people think that the government has dispelled their job opportunities for its own people in their own country,” said the University of Indonesia’s (UI) doctoral graduate.
The Vice Chairman of DPR RI also highlighted the peculiarity in government’s statement when addressing this issue. "Minister of Manpower stated that the number of foreign workers tends to fall. It's weird. We are already entering the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and since June 2015, the government has freed the visa for 169 countries to visit Indonesia. There is definitely a problem there," he said. He then added that the emergence of illegal immigrants occurs more frequently in Indonesia recently. The drop in the number of foreign workers registered by the Ministry of labor cannot be the effect of the lack of monitoring and law enforcement.
No country in the world opens its doors wide enough for foreign workers, except their qualifications are not available in the country. Foreign Investment, in conservative thinking, should be able to create jobs for Indonesian workers. Moreover, according to BPS data, the number of unemployment in Indonesia is increasing.
Many Violations
Many offenses have been committed by foreign nationals from China and other countries. At the end of July 2015, for example, in Complex Taman Setia Budi Indah, Medan, North Sumatra, the Police raided 31 foreigners (WNA), consisting of 17 men and 14 women whose average age was about 20 to 30 years, 11 are Taiwan citizen and 20 are citizens of China, for allegedly conducting fraudulent practices with international networks. They are estimated to have been staying for 1 month in Medan. They entered Indonesian territory by using tourist visas valid for six months.
Then, in the beginning of August 2015 in Jimbaran, South Kutak, Badung, Bali, 19 Chinese nationals consisting of 11 men and 8 women were arrested for violating the Immigration Act due to their failure to show immigration documents (passport and visa). At the scene, two laptops, one computer and monitor, papers that contain some numbers and a repeater antenna were found.
At the end of April 2016, nearby Halim Perdana Kusuma air base in Jakarta, there occurred ground drilling by seven people including five foreigners from China, where after being checked by the security Force, the Chinese nationals did not have a clearance letter or permission and did not bring any Id / passport. The five Chinese worker were employees of a company in Pantai Indah Kapuk, Bukit Golf North Jakarta.
The free market will provide opportunities to all ASEAN countries to enter the market in its member countries without duties or restrictions. Human resources and infrastructure are the key of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) that must be supported by good governance especially in strategic sectors that should still give priority to national interests. Enforcement of AEC can create economic integration, greater market, greater investment opportunity, higher competitiveness, and opportunities for knowledge exchange as well as access to greater capital. However, the challenges can become threats. A free market means an open market in which all economic actors from abroad will have greater economic opportunities with tax exemption. Foreign labor and products will also flood the Indonesian market. Therefore, preparing reliable human resources is the main weapon to face AEC. If our human resources cannot compete, then the economy in goods and services sector will be dominated by foreign countries, so that the ideals of AEC to create jobs as well as expand the market of our domestic products abroad is not going to be reached and it will be a great loss for the country.
Various national infrastructure projects that have been implemented or will be implemented, especially those handled by foreign investors and construction workers have potential to employ foreign workers illegally by exploiting some weaknesses such as free visa policy, residence permit, tourist visa (visa on arrival), as well as the existence of the illegal brokers handling their licenses for the employment of Foreign Workers (IMTA) and Limited Stay Permit Card (KITAS). Weak oversight of the companies employing foreign worker due to lack of budget, limited number of inspectors and the languages constraints of the inspectors, led to difficulties to solve illegal foreign workers issue. If not immediately anticipated, influx of illegal foreign workers might be expected. This can pose a threat, that is the reduced opportunities for local workers and the increase in unemployment rate that eventually might end up with social unrest (social riots) as well as endanger state sovereignty.
For this reason, the immigration-related regulations that still allow the "loophole" needs to be revised, including conducting the surveillance operation and a complete check of immigration documentation intensively.
*) The author graduated from Udayana University, Bali. Former Director of Mass Communication in Lembaga Analisa Politik dan Demokrasi, Jakarta.


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