Migrant workers group slams Indonesian gov’t suspension of zero placement fee policy

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Two foreign domestic workers sit by a footbridge near Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok. (COURTESY: fdh.labour.gov.hk)

A migrant workers group on Friday hit the Indonesian government for its decision to suspend the abolition of work placement fees to July 15, six months later than initially scheduled.

In a statement, the Network of Indonesian Migrant Workers (JBMI) said the suspension has a “major impact” on the survival of Indonesian migrant workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We were very happy with the Zero Cost policy and we thought we will be free from the exploitation of overcharging and debt bondage. But now, it seems government is not serious about it,” JBMI coordinator Sringatin said in a statement.

It earlier issued the abolition of placement fees, popularly called the Zero Cost policy, on June 15 last year. The policy, which aims to remove the burden on migrant workers to pay exorbitant fees before working overseas, was supposed to take effect on Jan. 15.

The Indonesian government earlier said they will have to postpone the implementation of the policy since the workers’ host countries were not yet ready for the shift.

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Last year, Labour and Welfare Secretary Dr. Law Chi-kwong expressed concern in his blog post if employers in Hong Kong will have to pay some of the fees taken off the domestic workers’ shoulders.

But JBMI called on the Indonesian government to scrap “unnecessary and burdensome” costs included in the placement fees—covering insurance, administrative fees, and other requirements.

The organization claimed some Indonesian migrant workers in the past six months had to pay between HK$3300 to HK$10,000 in cash for processing fees, while employers in Hong Kong shouldered HK$15,000 plus quarantine fees upon the worker’s arrival.

They also sought for the Indonesian government to institute fair and easy complaint mechanisms for workers to report Indonesian agencies that overcharge before deployment.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department has recorded over 170,000 domestic workers from Indonesia in January 2020, but the population has seen a steady decline as the Covid-19 pandemic battered Hong Kong last year.

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