The majority of Indonesian migrant workers are women who work in the domestic sectors, making the experience and problems also a gendered issue. Pre-departures procedures are often faster and more affordable for the Middle East than for other destinations in Southeast Asia. However, many workers know little about the social and cultural context, have little working experience, and are often surprised by the heavy work and long working hours. Recruitment and processing of workers to the Middle East is mainly centralized in the capital, Jakarta. Therefore, workers connect with recruiters via brokers and circumvent local checks and protections, missing pre-departure trainings or only receiving inadequate preparation, information, and documentation.

Private recruitment agencies might see it as more profitable to send migrants with falsified or incomplete documentation, which can incur problems both in the destination country and upon return. Not aware of the importance of documentation for their own safety, migrant workers may have difficulties proving their identity when in need of contacting their embassy abroad. Migrant workers will also be more vulnerable to exploitation and be unable to seek help without fearing to be deported. Similarly, migrants may face difficulties upon repatriation, when entering Indonesia.

In order to reduce the number of domestic workers leaving the country, and often experiencing abusive conditions, a ban on 21 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa was intended to be a solution to the problem.Migrant worker groups, however, view the policy very critically and do not expect it to be a solution to the problem. The Indonesian government sees the kafalah system in the Middle East, and the dependency of workers on their employers as the root of the critical conditions. It is questionable whether a ban is a helpful response, instead of offering adequate protection and advice to workers.

Find out more about the degree of respect for workers rights in this country based on ITUC Global Rights Index here.