Two million domestic workers left unprotected by new Indonesian bill

Two million domestic workers left unprotected by new Indonesian bill

  • Published on
    May 6, 2023
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  • Category:
    Domestic Slavery, Law & Policy
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The Indonesian government is expected to pass a long-awaited law this month that would strengthen the labor rights of domestic workers.  

However, in its current form, the bill would leave roughly 40% of all domestic workers in the country unprotected. 

Landmark bill for domestic workers’ rights 

Almost 5 million people (mostly women) are employed as domestic workers in Indonesia, but until now, they have lacked basic legal protections, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and even modern slavery. 

The Domestic Workers Protection Bill would finally enable these workers to access more of the basic labor rights afforded to workers in other sectors. 

Bloomberg reports: 

The bill requires employers and agents to uphold promised wages and working hours, and punishes physical assault with up to eight years’ imprisonment or fines of as much as 125 million rupiah ($8,233), according to a draft reviewed by Bloomberg. It also recognizes domestic helpers’ right to training, health insurance and social security. 

The latest round of debate began in late March after months of campaigning. Leading domestic workers’ rights activist Lita Anggraini says the bill refutes the idea that “anything is acceptable for a domestic worker,” and that without it, “slavery will be much more entrenched in Indonesian mindsets.” 

Campaigners also believe that the new regulations could help the government secure better conditions for Indonesians carrying out domestic work overseas. 

But major gaps remain 

The bill falls short in several areas. It fails to set a minimum wage or working age for domestic work. It also fails to establish an upper limit on working hours. Unionization rights are not included either.  

Alarmingly, the proposed law would also leave around two million workers unprotected given that it would apply exclusively to workers hired through employment agencies. Workers hired directly by households – around two million people – are not covered. 

Anggraini points to a “conflict of interest” as a key barrier to securing an effective law. She says that policymakers in Indonesia are likely to have four or five domestic workers in their own homes, and as such, are more likely to act in the best interest of employers. 

Support domestic workers’ fight for their rights 

Domestic workers around the world are treated as second class, often denied the basic labor rights afforded to workers from other sectors.  

Without the necessary legal protections, many face exploitation and modern slavery, with some even facing death as a result of abuse or neglect from employers.  

The Freedom United community is calling on all governments to take a stand for domestic workers and ratify the Domestic Workers Convention 189 immediately. Join us today.  


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