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.
Jordan first started received significant influxes of migrant workers in the 1970s, a period during which many Jordanians themselves left the country for work in the Gulf. Jordan currently hosts an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers from Egypt (53.3%), Bangladesh (15.9%), Syria (10.5%), the Philippines (5.48%), India (3.92%), and Sri Lanka (3.90%). About three-quarters of these migrant workers are men. Positions of domestic work are primarily filled by South Asian (e.g. from Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka) as well as Kenyan migrants. Egyptian migrant workers, who make up the largest proportion of migrants with valid labour permits, are more commonly employed in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. It is also observed that Jordan’s largest industrial sector is the apparel industry, where three-fourths of the approximately 60,000 employees are (primarily female) migrant workers. The Jordanian government has not yet instituted any overarching national policy to govern labour migration specifically; rather, there are a few laws in place to address migrant workers’ entry, stay, and exit in the country. Matters related to residency of foreign citizens in Jordan are dealt with by the Ministry of Interior’s Public Security Directorate.
Migrant labour in Jordan is currently managed via the kafala, or sponsorship, system, as part of which migrant workers are closely tied to their employers. A migrant worker cannot enter or leave the country without such a sponsorship, and employers must also provide approval for a migrant worker to change employment. The termination of a work contract must be agreed upon by both parties. Because of this, migrants often find themselves unable to pay their way out of ending a work contract early, which may lead to extreme situations of exploitation and immobility. Migrant workers who escape their employers may be subjected to imprisonment for engaging in illegal work. Moreover, non-Jordanians are generally paid lower wages for the same work than Jordanian workers. Unpaid or late payment of wages (often months later), in addition to non-payment of overtime, is also common for foreign workers in Jordan. Migrant workers in the country have additionally reported experiencing long working hours, physical and sexual abuse, poor living conditions, heavy manual labour, and passport withholding at the hands of their employers as well as recruitment agencies.
These challenges vary by industry, however; overtime payment, for example, seems to be well-enforced in manufacturing but less so in tourism and other sectors. It is also observed that, while migrant workers commonly work in Jordan’s garment and construction industries, violations are most common for agricultural and domestic workers. Workers garment and construction industries are generally employed by large companies and have access to minimum rights (e.g. overtime wages, social security). This is less so the case for workers in domestic work or agriculture, who are often employed by individual contractors. In this context, it is observed that the main problems for agricultural workers include poor working and living conditions; passport confiscation; the recruitment process; the kafala system; as well as forced labour and trafficking. For domestic workers, the main violations include long working hours and no leave; unpaid wages and overtime allowance; a lack of access of healthcare; forced detention at the employer’s hours; document confiscation; not being able to retain a copy of employment contract; verbal, physical, and sexual abuse; termination of employment; and financial penalties.
Given the proliferation and overcrowding of both licensed and unlicensed brokers, recruitment agencies are also associated with the charging excessive fees and violating contractual terms and conditions. These employment agencies are also seen as an unreliable form of protection for migrant workers who are facing difficulties with their employers. It has been reported that agencies may accept money for residency and work permits without processing the necessary paperwork, leaving migrant workers liable for visa overstay fees and without documentation. It is, for example, observed that only 318,883 of the country’s migrant workers had an official work permit as of 2016. In this context, approximately half of Jordan’s migrant workers are reported to lack the proper work permits. Failing to pay visa overstay fines can also lead to long-term detention.
Find out more about the degree of respect for worker’s rights in this country based on ITUC Global Rights Index here.