Indonesia’s Order to Foreign Workers: Learn the Language

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia can be doing in which easier for foreigners to work here — nevertheless they will have to study as well.

A decree by President Joko Widodo in which can be set to take effect in which month will simplify Indonesia’s procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, which are often hampered by delays, arbitrary denials as well as revocations, not to mention compulsory bribes to civil servants just to stamp the paperwork.

Buried inside the order can be a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia.

The foreign business community has been caught off guard by the fresh requirement.

“Our businesses want to be here as well as want to invest, nevertheless what they also want are predictable rules,” said A. Lin Neumann, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, which represents nearly 300 American companies operating inside the country.

The United States can be one of Indonesia’s largest foreign direct investors, in industries including oil as well as gas, mining, banking, technology, e-commerce as well as logistics.

The language requirement “sends a negative message in which foreigners are somehow unwelcome,” Mr. Neumann said. “in which hurts the investment climate.”

The order also applies to domestic companies, which are reacting with alarm.

“I think in which can be foolish; in which’s stupid. in which lacks clarity on what the objective can be,” said Suryo B. Sulisto, a prominent Indonesian business executive as well as former chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce as well as Industry.

“What are they trying to do — stop investment coming in?” he added. “in which’s counterproductive.”

The government has not explained the reasoning behind the language requirement. nevertheless in which may be an attempt by Mr. Joko, who can be running for re-election next year, to placate political rivals who say he can be “opening the floodgates” to foreign workers by streamlining the process for obtaining work permits.

Indonesia, a country of 260 million people, currently has about 126,000 working Asian as well as Western expatriates, a low percentage compared with neighbors like Singapore as well as Malaysia.

The complaints coming from Mr. Joko’s opponents stem partly coming from an increase inside the number of Chinese manual laborers entering illegally on tourist visas to work on Chinese-funded infrastructure projects. As unregistered workers, they could not be subject to the fresh language requirement.

Mr. Suryo said in which made little sense to address concerns about illegal foreign labor by imposing a language requirement on bankers, engineers as well as different professionals.

“in which can be another part of bureaucracy where in which’s a moneymaking opportunity for someone,” he said. “People will get into the business of issuing fake language certificates.”

Indonesia includes a decades-old history of official corruption as well as can be one of the most graft-ridden nations in Asia. in which also remains a difficult market for foreign investors to master, ranking 72nd on the entire world Bank’s most recent Ease of Doing Business survey.

In 2015, Mr. Joko publicly quashed a draft regulation requiring all expatriate workers to be proficient inside the Indonesian language, saying in which was bad for business.

nevertheless his own decree requires companies to arrange as well as pay for foreigners working inside the country for longer than six months to take Indonesian language courses at local schools, as well as to provide attendance certificates.

If they fail to do so, the companies as well as their employees could face unspecified sanctions in which are being drafted by the Ministry of Manpower as well as Transmigration, which processes as well as revokes foreign work permits, according to Budiman, head of the ministry’s legal affairs bureau.

The order goes into force on Tuesday, said Mr. Budiman, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. Some details, like how many class hours are required per week, are still being decided.

Mr. Budiman said companies shouldn’t complain because the decree also reduces waiting times for work permits, coming from months to days.

“Don’t look at in which issue coming from only one side,” he said.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Joko has fought over foreign investment policies with his own cabinet ministries as well as bureaucracy, which are often accused of being more focused on protecting their own interests than in opening up the Indonesian economy.

In 2015, as Mr. Joko was rolling out a series of regulatory reforms, his government adopted dramatically higher tariffs on more than 1,000 imported items, an increase in which he opposed nevertheless which did not require his approval.

Johan Budi, Mr. Joko’s spokesman, played down any political infighting or the possibility of negative economic repercussions, insisting in which the order does not require in which expatriates be fluent inside the Indonesian language to be employed.

“in which can be necessary for companies to provide the facilities for training expatriates” inside the language, Mr. Budi said, “as well as there’s nothing wrong with foreign workers learning Indonesian. nevertheless in which can be not mandatory to be able to speak the Indonesian language.”

Then why have such a rule?

“My reading can be in which the government can be doing in which to address concerns about foreign workers without having to annul the controversial decree,” said Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University in Canberra as well as a longtime researcher in Indonesian politics.

“The latter could be an admission in which they were wrong on in which therefore could look bad,” he said.