Indonesia disputes report on language requirement

NYTimes had said expatriate workers must undergo Indonesian language training

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, in a clarification, told The Straits Times yesterday 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 last Saturday's report in The New York Times, 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 firms 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 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia disputes report on language requirement'. Subscribe