Indonesia’s migrant workers continue to be attracted to better-paying jobs in distant lands, despite a growing economy at home. Last year, the country’s 4 million workers abroad sent home $6.7 billion in remissions.
It’s a significant amount. Last year’s foreign direct investment, by comparison, totaled nearly $20 billion. For hundreds of thousands of the migrant workers’ family and friends, the money surely was a welcome boon.
That money also contributed to the increased domestic consumption that has helped power Indonesia’s economic growth over the past few years. Their contribution is therefore doubly meaningful, but sadly the workers have nearly been forgotten.
However, things could change, as the House of Representatives in April ratified the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The move obliges the House to pass legislation complying with the provisions of the pact.
The legislation is vital for protecting migrant workers, especially given the increase in violence against household workers in some countries. Migrant workers should have the same rights as other Indonesian citizens in getting access to legal support, even if they are far from home. The private placement agencies that process migrant workers should also be better monitored.
But perhaps the best way Indonesia can help its migrant workers is with better-paying jobs at home so they don’t need to leave the country in the first place. For that to happen, the government must invest in training workers with valuable skills. The education system too needs serious improvement.
In today’s globalized world, workers will go to where the opportunities are. We must make sure that for Indonesians, the best opportunities are at home.