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Balinese employee protection - will it work?

Monday 03rd June 2013

I support a minimum wage for all spa therapists – whatever their nationality – but will the new regulation for a minimum monthly $1,000 wage set by the Bali Agency for Placement and Protection of Migrant workers (BP3TKI) achieve this for the Balinese? 

Since salaries are agreed before contracts are signed, it must be assumed that workers are choosing  to accept low wages, and this is because the legal monthly minimum wage back home can be as little as £240* (approx. $360USD).  But I am told this minimum only applies to full time workers, and speaking with therapists on my travels I hear some employers falsely register staff as part time even though working full time hours. So the incentives to find better paid work abroad are very strong.

 The Indonesian government controls their migrant workers by making it compulsory to secure work overseas through one of the many licensed agencies - agencies which charge both the job seeker and the employer. The job seeker usually has to pay for a training course as well as for their special passport and exit visa – and if they can’t pay this from savings it can take more than 6 months of earnings to repay. Agencies and government clearly both benefit in the name of “protecting” the employee.

But what “protection” can the BP3TKI provide the job seeker overseas? Even if their housing is free, is it to a reasonable standard? Do they receive their salary and benefits when they should? Are they exploited in more sinister ways? BP3KTI insistence on registering all employees with the local Indonesian consulate may just prompt the smaller but “good” employer to recruit from elsewhere and the practicalities of a worker getting time off to travel and notify their embassy of their grievances will in most cases be impossible.  Moreover, as Lex Mundi** says, Indonesian court decisions are not enforceable outside Indonesia anyway…

A $1000 per month minimum wage, secured via the agency, may encourage more therapists to leave the country through the correct channels - but still does not guarantee they won’t be exploited. It can be argued that the new regulation simply ensures that government and agencies are cashing in on the export of their own high value people.

Spa Staff’s database includes many excellent Indonesian therapists. They deserve freedom of movement without incurring financial charges from their own government or agencies.  We encourage all employers not only to pay at least the required minimum wage of $1000 but also to pay the job seeker’s costs so they can start employment free of debt. We would like to hear from any therapist who feels exploited or abused in any way by their employer as well as from those who have a good experience to share.

*Minimum wage is set by the individual province and for 2013 varies from £60 in West Java to £150 in Jakarta with Bali set at £80 per week. Source:

**Lex Mundi is a world network of independent law firms with experience in 100+ countries

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