A draft government regulation that will require foreigners to master the Indonesian language before they are able to obtain a work permit here has elicited incredulity and skepticism from members of the local expatriate community, who responded to the announcement with criticism.
Earlier this month, Manpower Minister M. Hanif Dhakiri revealed that soon foreign workers would have to complete the Test of Indonesian as a Foreign Language, which is currently being developed by the ministry along with the University of Indonesia's Language Development Center.
The exam will be part of a new set of requirements that will determine the eligibility of a foreigner to work in the archipelago. It is included in the ongoing revision of a 2013 Manpower Ministry regulation. "We hope that the revision can be complete in February so we can immediately implement the Indonesian language skill test for foreign workers who wish to work in Indonesia," Hanif was quoted as saying by state-run Antara news agency.He added the government would tighten regulations concerning expat workers in Indonesia and ensure their enforcement in order to protect the local workforce from an influx of foreign newcomers seeking their share of jobs in Southeast Asia's largest economy.
Keith Whitchurch, an Australian national who has called Indonesia home for the past 10 years, said he understood the reasons behind the government's move. "It is entirely reasonable entirely consistent with the international practice," Whitchurch noted, citing the English proficiency certificates such as TOEFL or IELTS that citizens of non-English-speaking countries must obtain before they can secure a work permit in Australia. He questioned, though, the case of expats who were currently working in Indonesia and had been for some time. "The question is the arrangement. How does this apply to those who already have permits?" asked Whitchurch, who serves as president director of the Australian-owned mining services company SMG Consultants, whose local offices are located in South Jakarta.
He urged the government to offer a transitional period that would allow affected companies time to adjust before the rule was officially enforced. But more importantly, Whitchurch emphasized, if the government was serious about implementing the new regulation, it should not do it halfheartedly; the Manpower Ministry must ensure that all companies comply, he said.
However, Peter (not his real name), a Dutchman who has been living in Indonesia for five years, was quick to slam the draft regulation.Though he feels confident his Indonesian skills would allow him to easily pass the language test, thanks to his Indonesian wife, he questions the necessity of the regulation when many foreigners work in the country for a short period of time under a one- or two-year contract. He added Indonesian is not an easy language to learn to begin with. He also scrutinized the issue of technicalities as Indonesian language courses are not easily available in most countries, with the notable exceptions of Australia and the Netherlands.
According to data from the Manpower Ministry, as of October last year, a total of 64,604 foreign workers were registered in Indonesia, a decline from 68,957 in 2013 and 72,427 people in 2012. The largest number of those workers comes from China, amounting to 15,341 people, followed by Japan (10,183), South Korea (7,678), India (4,680), Malaysia (3,779) and the United States (2,497).
Source: Jakarta Globe, 13 January 2015