January 24, 2017 Print

Indonesian workers struggling in a tough economy often seek migrant labor placement in other Middle Eastern countries, and through their exposure to new cultures and methods of working they ultimately bring new skills with them back to Indonesia. In a new series of videos that has reached thousands of viewers, the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) tells the stories of three women from Indonesia who turned their experiences working abroad into entrepreneurship opportunities at home.

Neni Nuraeni inspired us by becoming a successful tailor in her hometown Purwakarta,” explains Rainer Heufers, CIPS executive director. “While being a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, Neni learned new skills by helping her employer sew clothes. She now applies these skills at home and uses her remittances as startup capital.” You can read more about Nuraeni's story here. Video in Indonesian:

Eti Rohayati also went to Saudi Arabia where she took care of the elderly,” Heufers continues. “Upon returning to her hometown she launched a wide array of small businesses: from bridal make-up services to selling an array of street snacks.” You can read more about Rohayati’s story here. Video in Indonesian:

“Kanipah was a domestic household helper in Saudi Arabia, where she gained the confidence that is so often lacking in women from rural Indonesia,” Heufers says. “Once back in her hometown of Indramayu she is now an entrepreneur who turns fish into delicious snacks.” Video in Indonesian:

“The success stories of returning migrant workers overshadow all their troubles caused by a complicated and expensive recruitment processes in Indonesia and by sometimes abusive employers abroad,” Heufers explains. “It certainly didn’t help when the government issued a moratorium that stops the placement of female workers in Middle Eastern countries. This forces many women into illegal migration. A sad irony when in 2015 alone remittances of Indonesian migrant workers contributed USD 10.5 billion to the rural economy.”

The work that CIPS is doing on women’s labor migration is funded in part by Atlas Network’s Liberating Enterprise and Entrepreneurship grant program.

CIPS has long advocated for the rights of migrant workers to earn a living abroad. The organization’s groundbreaking study “Reducing the Financial Burden of Indonesian Migrant Workers: Proposals for Inclusive Growth and Village Prosperity” found that annual remittances from Indonesian migrants working in other countries reached US$8.4 billion in 2014, money that “supports education, housing, infrastructure, entrepreneurship,” and more, reducing Indonesian poverty by 26.7 percent and lowering the poverty gap by 55.3 percent. Still, Indonesian regulations place a tremendous burden on migrant workers that CIPS hopes to reduce.

“Solving the problems by simply stopping migration is not an option,” Heufers concludes. “It deprives disadvantaged women like Neni, Eti and Kanipah of the opportunity to gain experiences, skills, social status, and sufficient income for them and their families.”