Combating Forced Labour and Trafficking of Indonesian Migrant Workers (Phase II)

The Project addresses the needs, rights and concerns of Indonesian migrant workers throughout the migration cycle. The project also focuses in particular on domestic workers, who are among the most vulnerable to forced labour and trafficking.

Migration and domestic work

Every year about 700,000 documented Indonesian migrant workers leave home to seek employment abroad. Their primary destinations are the Middle East and Asia, with the two most common destinations being Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. The latest data from the National Agency for the Protection and Placement of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI) in August 2009 stated that there are approximately 4.3 million workers are presently working overseas, who contributed around US$ 6 billion and 8.2 billion in remittances to the Indonesian national economy in respectively 2007 and 2008. The number of undocumented migrants is estimated to be 2–4 times higher. Approximately 75 percent of all documented Indonesian migrant workers are women, with the vast majority working as domestic workers.

In spite of the central role migrant domestic workers play in sustaining the national economy of Indonesia, their plight, and their need for adequate legal protection in Indonesia and abroad, has not yet been sufficiently addressed by the Indonesian government. As a result, domestic workers are exposed to institutionalized trafficking and forced labour practices throughout the entire migration cycle.

Forced labour and trafficking

Domestic work in itself is not forced labour, but domestic workers disproportionately experience severe forms of labour exploitation, including forced labour and trafficking. The perpetrators of these practices are mostly brokers, recruitment agents, employers and complicit officials. The forced labour and trafficking practices to which domestic workers are most commonly exposed are: entering into debt bondage because of excessive or illegal recruitment fees; travelling with forged travel documents; having their contract substituted for an inferior one; being deceived about the work conditions; having travel documents and salary withheld; confinement; being prevented from communicating; working excessive hours without any days off; being subjected to physical or sexual abuse; and experiencing the destruction of their ID, illegal harassment and extortion, detention and abuse by law enforcement agencies, employers and private agents.

According to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), which all ILO members—including Indonesia—are obliged to uphold, all workers have equal rights to protection and recognition, regardless of their status and sector. Migrant workers, including migrant domestic workers, are thus entitled to these protections, too. The ILO Multi-Lateral Framework on Labour Migration provides guidance for member states and constituents to ensure that migrant workers’ protection needs are fully addressed, while strengthening and streamlining regional and national labour migration management policies and implementation mechanisms.

One of the priority objectives of ILO’s Decent Work Country Programme for Indonesia is to Stop Exploitation at Work, which specifically includes combating forced labour and the trafficking of migrant workers. Both of these issues have been recognized by ILO constituents in Indonesia as a priority for which they have requested ILO assistance.

Project objective and strategy

The Migrant Workers’ Project aims to contribute to the eradication of discrimination and exploitation of Indonesian migrant workers in Indonesia and selected main receiving countries in South-East Asia. To achieve this objective, an integrated approach is applied to comprehensively address both causes and impact of forced labour and trafficking in domestic workers. Concrete actions that have been identified are:

Advocacy and technical cooperation

The project supports advocacy and technical cooperation to strengthen the policy and legal framework for the protection of domestic workers. This entails working with project partners to draft and strengthen bilateral agreements, national legislation, local ordinances, administrative regulations and practices, codes of ethics and model contracts. This is especially important as in most countries domestic workers are presently excluded from labour laws and social protection legislation. The project further technically supports and facilitates national tripartite and stakeholder debate and involvement in the ILO international standards-setting process for domestic workers 2008-2011.

Awareness raising

Insufficient appreciation has been given to the plight of migrant workers and migrant domestic workers by the public, the media, the government or trade unions. Likewise, domestic workers and their employers themselves are largely unaware of the rights and obligations of both parties in the household. Therefore, the project supports awareness-raising activities in order to sensitize relevant stakeholders to safe migration and recognition of workers in the domestic sector.

Capacity building

The stakeholders that have a mandate of ensuring protection for migrant workers and domestic workers often face capacity shortfalls. The project therefore aims to strengthen the organizational capacity of governmental institutions at national and local levels, and strengthen migrant and domestic workers’ organizations in terms of outreach activities as well as alliance-building with trade unions and other organizations that support the cause of domestic and migrant workers.

Direct assistance and service provision

The project collaborates with national and local partners that are providing outreach, protection, livelihood and reintegration services to migrant domestic workers in source and destination countries. This entails legal and psychological counselling, help desks, hotlines, entrepreneurship training, remittance services and insurance provision for migrant workers and their communities.

Targeted research and documentation

Due to the complexity of trafficking and forced labour practices, existing knowledge gaps must be addressed and information shared. The project is therefore conducting targeted research, policy analyses and assessments, as well as compiling and disseminating information related to conditions of migrant domestic workers.

Opportunities to combat forced labour and trafficking in Indonesian migrant workers

Evolving globalization, and the rapidly growing numbers of international labour migrants lacking fundamental labour protection, have generated heightened attention to the plight of migrant workers among both national and international audiences, and have built a momentum for combating forced labour and trafficking in migrant domestic workers.

Recent policy developments in Indonesia have provided opportunities to strengthen the protection framework for migrant workers. For example, Presidential Instruction No. 6/2006 outlined a plan of action and sector reforms to improve the migration placement and protection system in Indonesia, and in line with Presidential Regulation No. 81/2006, a new national placement and protection agency was established in early 2007. Additionally, Law No. 39/2004 on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Workers is presently under review to ensure compatibility with the recent presidential initiatives.

At ASEAN level, the ongoing development of regional binding instrument for the protection of migrant workers offers an opportunity for strengthening the legal protection and harmonization of recruitment and placement regulations and work conditions for migrant workers.

Key partners

  • Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration
  • Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs
  • National Agency for the Protection and Placement of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI)
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry for Women’s Empowerment
  • Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Ministry of Health
  • Relevant Local Government Offices
  • National Human Rights and Women’s Rights Committees
  • Migrant Workers’ Unions and other Migrant Workers’ and Domestic Workers’ Organisations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong
  • Trade Union Confederations, NGOs and CBOs concerned with Domestic Workers, Migrant Workers, Forced Labour and Trafficking