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Policy brief

Supporting Local Government in the Governance of Overseas Employment

Indonesia faces enormous challenges in emigration governance. With an annual placement of not less than half a million people, three quarters of whom are women working in the domestic sphere, overseas employment is indeed a task too huge for the central government to handle alone. More often than seldom, the issues of human rights emerge in combination with the massive outflow of migrant workers. Overseas employment itself is a long and complex process which involves the authority at the village, kabupaten/kota (district/city), provincial, national level up to the one at the destination country. The Head of the National Agency for Placement and Protection of Indonesia Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI) admitted that 80% of the problems facing migrant workers are encountered domestically (BNP2TKI, 2009). Problems such as identity fraud, cheating, extortion, detention, etc. occur at the sending villages and kabupaten/kota, beyond the span of control of the central government. Therefore, they should be best dealt with by the local government. The local government has its own interest in protecting the migrant workers. First, the remittance is much more significant locally than nationally, particularly in migrant source kabupaten/kota. For example, at the national level remittance only contributed to 1.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 (Ananta, 2009).2 In Kabupaten Blitar and Ponorogo, the ratio of remittance to the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) reached 4.4% and 6.3% respectively in 2006. In Kabupaten Lombok Barat, the ratio in 2006 is even more spectacular, reaching 24.3% (Bachtiar, 2011a). Second, the social costs of emigration, such as family cohesion and juvenile delinquency are also more significant at the local level than at the national level. Therefore, providing services and protecting the migrant workers should be the main priority of the local government so as to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of emigration.

The Governance of Indonesian Overseas Employment in the Context of Decentralization

The governance of international migration in the context of decentralization is somewhat awkward. Debate occurs, particularly on the issue of whether it is a decentralized or centralized matter. It is debatable because overseas employment lies both in the area of employment and foreign affairs. Law No. 32/2004 concerning Regional Governance stipulates that employment is a decentralized matter, while foreign affairs are not. Yet, the governance of Indonesia's overseas employment is characterized with centralistic approach. One can obvious see it from the following angles. First, the ones in favor of centralistic governance usually make use of Article 33 and 34 of Law No. 13/2003 concerning Labor (Naekma and Pageh, 2009). These articles differentiate domestic employment from the overseas employment, leaving the latter to be regulated by another law, which is Law No. 39/2004 concerning the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (PPTKI). Based on these provisions, these people then argue that domestic employment is decentralizable while overseas employment is not.