Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Indonesia's foreign-worker flip-flop

JAKARTA -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signaled a softening of his government's increasingly stringent visa requirements for foreigners working in the country in an apparent response to strong concerns raised by overseas businesses.

     Widodo told the cabinet on Aug. 20 that the government would drop earlier plans to require foreign workers to learn the Indonesian language and apply for temporary stay permits of up to a year, known by their local acronym, Kitas.

     The president's statement, relayed by Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung, came six weeks after the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration introduced new rules requiring all companies to hire 10 Indonesians for every foreign employee. It also set rigid conditions on visa requirements for foreign workers visiting the country, even for one-off business meetings.

     Despite his latest directive to overturn the earlier proposals for language and Kitas visa requirements, Widodo did not comment on whether the ministry's new hiring rules would be abolished or whether another visa or permit system would be introduced to replace Kitas.

     How the presidential directive will be implemented also remains unclear after Widodo recently complained about ministries and officials ignoring various government policy changes. SIMON ROUGHNEEN, Asian regional correspondent



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