​DPR leader criticizes Jokowi’s plan to scrap Indonesian language requirement for expats, says it hurts Indonesian pride

President Joko Widodo speaking at the World Economic Forum. Photo: AFP

Last week we told you about President Joko Widodo ordering his administration to scrap the KITAS work permit and Indonesian language requirement for foreign workers in order to make his government more friendly to foreign investors.

The scrapping of the KITAS requirement seems more significant (though we still don’t know what that would involve exactly, as it is almost certain another form of work permit would replace it) but it is the repeal of the Indonesian language requirement that critics of the president have seized upon.

One of those critics it the vice chairman of Commission VI of the House, Heri Gunawan, who questioned the intent of the policy and argued that it would hurt Indonesian workers. 

“The [president] hopes that the deletion of the [requirement] for foreign workers to know the Indonesian language ‘could boost investments in Indonesia.’ It is very strange,” Heri told Vivanews yesterday. 

According to him, there was no evidence that the Indonesian language requirement did anything to deter foreign investment. 

“That’s two different things. There is no relationship at all,” he said.

Heri said that if foreign investors really were pushing for the language requirement to be scrapped, it was because they only want to invest in projects that would be carried out using only foreign workers. 

“That reason is very dangerous if they’re not careful. The national interest can be hurt. In the future, all sectors and types of jobs in the country could be controlled by foreigners. From the CEO level to middle management to field workers,” he said.

But the Gerindra politician said that the language requirement was not only necessary to protect the interests of local workers, but also Indonesia’s national pride.

“[The regulation] is a symbol of the authority of Indonesia. So, it’s time he held up his own country. And because it is appropriate, foreign workers should respect it,” said Heri.

It seems, however, that the requirement for foreign workers to learn Indonesian (contained in Ministry of Labour Regulation No. 12 of 2013) was actually already effectively repealed by the newer Ministry of Labour Regulation No. 16 of 2015, which does not contain any laws requiring foreign workers to speak or learn Indonesian.

Labor Minister M Hanif Dhakiri admitted that the new regulation, which went into effect on June 29, already eliminated the Indonesian language requirement but told Sindonews, “Don’t worry,” as it also included several other regulations to protect local workers.

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