Indonesia disputes report on language criteria for foreign workers

Indonesia's Manpower Ministry spokesman Sahat Sinurat clarified that there is no language requirement for expatriate workers in the country as reported by The New York Times. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA - Indonesia is disputing a report by The New York Times that said it is imposing a language requirement for all expatriate workers in the country.

Manpower Ministry spokesman Sahat Sinurat clarified on Tuesday (June 26) that there is no such requirement, although employers will need to facilitate Bahasa Indonesia language training for some foreign workers under a presidential regulation issued in March this year.

The new rule, however, does not apply to foreign workers employed in emergency or urgent situations, those in temporary employment, members of a board of directors or board of commissioners, founding members, members of management and supervisory boards, he added.

Mr Sahat also explained that the move is not meant to impede investment, but to ensure "smooth communication between foreign workers and co-workers in the process of technology transfer and transfer of expertise".

"If a TKA can speak Indonesian, then the technology transfer process will run more optimally," he added, using the Indonesian jargon for a foreign worker.

According to The New York Times report on Saturday (June 23), a new decree by President Joko Widodo will simplify Indonesia's procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, but "buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in South-east Asia".

The report said the foreign business community was caught off guard by the requirement, while local companies reacted with alarm.

A member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, which represents nearly 300 US companies in the country, was quoted as saying the language requirement "sends a negative message that foreigners are somehow unwelcome" and would hurt the investment climate.

Mr Sahat, however, reassured the public that the new regulation also includes other initiatives to simplify the licensing bureaucracy of foreign workers, and support investments.

"We are improving the investment climate so that investments will continue to increase, so that more jobs will be created," he added.

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