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Tough times for returning labour migrants

A young man grilling kebabs on the streets of Jakarta. For many returning labour migrants, finding a job in their home country can be tough
(David Swanson/IRIN)

For Risti Ariyani, the dream of working abroad and helping her family is over.



Her contract with a computer components factory in Malaysia was abruptly cancelled because of the global financial crisis, leaving her no choice but to return home to Central Jaffa Province.



“My family was counting on me,” the 20-year-old said. “Everyone, including my sisters now in school, depended on the money I sent back.”



In 2008, some 200,000 Indonesian nationals were sent home from Malaysia because of the recession.



Most come from rural areas of the world’s fourth most populous nation where poverty is particularly rife.



“Due to the global crisis, I see more migrant workers from other sectors returning,” Choirul Hadi, secretary-general of the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Trade Union, told IRIN.



Between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants were now returning through Jakarta’s Sukarno Hatta international airport every day, he said, with serious implications for thousands of families.


200905140957380965.jpg

David Swanson/IRIN
A scene at the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. Thousands of women leave their homes in Indonesia to work as domestic workers each year. Approximately 80 percent of all labour migrants are women
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Families struggle as more women work overseas
A scene at the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. Thousands of women leave their homes in Indonesia to work as domestic workers each year. Approximately 80 percent of all labour migrants are women


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
A
scene at the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. Thousands
of Indonesian women leave their homes each year to work as domestic
workers abroad

The subsequent drop in remittances will likely squeeze families – many of whom were already living on the edge – even harder.



Earlier this year, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) warned that the financial crisis threatened to undermine the government’s ability to meet its poverty reduction and employment targets.



A large segment of the population was vulnerable to shocks and at risk of falling below, or further below the poverty line, a 31 March statement read.



“You can only imagine the impact this will have,” Albert Bonasahat, national project coordinator for the International Organization for Labour (ILO), told IRIN, noting the importance of remittances not just on the immediate family, but the extended family as well.



“This will, of course, stop the development of the local economy,” he said.



Eighty percent of labour migrants are the only breadwinner for their families, with the vast majority women from poor rural families, he added.



Upfront costs



Yet for those who only recently went abroad to work, including Risti Ariyani, retrenchment can be particularly bitter.



Many had borrowed heavily to pay agent fees and other charges to secure their employment and have had the least amount of time working to recoup those costs.



When work visas are cancelled, there is little chance of a refund.



The government estimates there are approximately 2.7 million documented Indonesian migrant workers working overseas, while the number of undocumented workers could be four times that.



Many labour migrants spend thousands of dollars in agent fees and training to secure jobs abroad. In Jakarta, a school advertises Korean language courses for those seeking employment in Korea

David Swanson/IRIN
Many labour migrants spend thousands of dollars in agent fees and training to secure jobs abroad. In Jakarta, a school advertises Korean language courses for those seeking employment in Korea
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tough times for returning labour migrants
Many labour migrants spend thousands of dollars in agent fees and training to secure jobs abroad. In Jakarta, a school advertises Korean language courses for those seeking employment in Korea


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Many labour migrants spend thousands of dollars in agent fees and training to secure jobs abroad. In Jakarta, a school advertises Korean language courses for those seeking employment in Korea

Dependency on remittances



Approximately 700,000 documented migrant workers go overseas annually to help their families and send back much-needed remittances – a policy the government has actively supported.



According to the World Bank, the registered remittances Indonesian migrant workers send home account for more than US$6 billion annually, comprising the second-highest source of income after oil and gas.



In some provinces, including East Java and Nusa Tenggara Barat, they are the primary source of income, even surpassing government assistance levels.



Most families use the money for daily household expenditures such as food and other necessities.



Of the 400 respondents surveyed for a study in five Indonesian provinces (Lampung, West Java, Central Java, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara) in December 2008-January 2009, on average, 37 percent of the migrant workers’ families were fully dependent on remittances for their family’s income, while in West Nusa Tenggara that level of dependency was 86 percent.



Alongside the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Indonesia is one of the few Asian countries that deploy more female than male migrant workers, most of whom have a low level of education and work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.



About 80 percent of all Indonesian migrant workers are women, mostly domestic workers. Some 60 percent are in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan and Qatar, with the rest in Asia Pacific, including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan.



The ILO projects up to 52 million jobs worldwide could be destroyed by the global economic crisis in 2009.



ds/mw


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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