In an effort to protect its citizens from possible abuse overseas, the Indonesian government has decided to ban those who are less educated from accepting jobs overseas. Only those who finish senior secondary school are qualified to take overseas job offers.

Indonesian migrant workers

Indonesian migrant workers have had a volatile history in Hong Kong. Pic: AP

Those who don’t fulfill the mininum requirement don’t have to panic at the moment; this regulation will take effect only in 2018.

Such a move may have a big effect in Indonesia’s deployment of household workers in Hong Kong. In 2009, the country became the top provider of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, dislodging the Philippines, and has recently surpassed the 150,000 level. But such conclusions can only be made if we assume virtually all of Indonesia’s labor exports to Hong Kong can be categorized as those who lack educational qualifications. The condition can’t be said about Filipino helpers, many of whom are college graduates.

Due to less educational attainment and perhaps ignorance, many foreign workers are exposed to potential risks such as human trafficking, white slavery and other forms of exploitation and unfair treatment.

This isn’t the first time the deployment ban has been raised on behalf of Indonesian workers. Indonesia has already banned sending maids to Malaysia in 2009 after severe cases of abuse were reported. It resulted in a shortage of available helpers, as well as headaches to working parents who hire domestic helpers to oversee their young children. The ban was eventually lifted after the two countries agreed on terms such as an increase in salaries and measures that help curtail maid abuses.

Taking a cue from what happened in Malaysia, it’s appropriate that Hong Kong take a proactive stance in the case. While nobody can prevent the Indonesian government from prohibiting its less educated citizens from taking offshore jobs, Hong Kong can think about possible solutions to address the problem Indonesia’s plan might create. Improve employer records to minimize abuse cases, increase salaries or look elsewhere?

Someone out there can do a better job than I in answering that question.