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Opinion

Omnibus Law on Job Creation reinforcing patriarchal mentality

Adhista, Pixabay

Coffee worker, Indonesia

Law Number 11 Year 2020 on Job Creation (Omnibus Law on Job Creation) consists of 11 clusters. One of them, employment and labour, has been the cluster of greatest concern for workers. While all workers will be affected by this Law, women workers are more vulnerable than their male counterparts.

In general, women workers in Indonesia are absorbed in labour-intensive industries, especially in garment, textile and footwear sectors. Business owners prefer to hire women workers as they are perceived to be more efficient, diligent, easy to manage and are willing to accept lower wage. This perception is shared by Indonesian society, which is largely patriarchal and tends to subordinate women. Although Indonesian women are increasingly independent and empowered, the majority do not have access to knowledge and self-development. Worryingly, the Law will only increase the vulnerability of these women workers.

To analyse the Law more comprehensively, it is necessary to make comparisons between the new “Omnibus Law" and the previous or currently applicable laws, namely Law Number 13 Year 2003 on Manpower. There are at least seven adverse impacts of the new Law on women workers.

First, Omnibus Law will put women workers in a precarious condition through contractualisation. They can be on short/ fixed-term employment contracts for life. The expansion of the contract system adds to women workers’ vulnerability, especially if they are the main breadwinners.

Second, women workers have the potential to become outsourced workers without any restrictions on the types of work being outsourced. Previously, outsourcing of service is limited to five types of work not directly related to the production process, including activities associated with the provision of cleaning service, the provision of catering service to workers, the provision of a supply of security guards, auxiliary business activities in the mining and oil sectors, and the provision of transport for workers. Defending women workers' rights will be more difficult because companies who sub-contract the work will not take any responsibility if problems occur.

Contract work systems and increased outsourcing add to the informalisation of labour. Women workers are at risk of moving from one factory to another due to job insecurity. The longer time spent looking for a new job, the greater the likelihood of them not being able to have food on the table. Women workers are left with no choice but to access precarious and informal employment where minimum wage protection, social security and leave rights are non-existent. According to the Central Statistics Agency’s data, in 2019 the informal sector accounted for more than half (55%) of the total workforce in Indonesia (70.49 million workers) - and the majority of these workers are women.

Third, Omnibus Law will condition women workers to have less time with their children and family as it extends the maximum overtime hours to four hours a day and 18 hours a week. Previously, Law No. 13 Year 2003 stipulated that workers may work overtime for no longer than three hours in a day or 14 hours in a week. This means women workers will spend most of their time at the factory or workplace, leaving them with little time for themselves or their families. In a patriarchal culture, women are required to do domestic work. The double burden of women workers becomes heavier.

Fourth, workers' right for two days off per five workdays in a week, as guaranteed by Law No. 13 Year 2003, has been removed. The sixth day will not be counted as overtime. For example, thousands of women workers in the Nusantara Bonded Zone (KBN) in Cakung, North Jakarta, have already been subjected to “forced overtime without pay" on Saturdays and Sundays.

Fifth, minimum wage for women workers has the potential to decline in value - the minimum wage will no longer be based on the decent living needs component, but merely on inflation and/or economic growth; wage can be calculated based on the unit of time and unit of yield; small and medium enterprises are exempted from minimum wage requirements; the role of wage councils is curtailed; and minimum wage rates at the provincial level will be determined by the governor. On 26 October 2020, the Minister of Manpower issued a circular addressed to governors in Indonesia, directing them not to raise the minimum wage on the grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixth, protection against termination of employment is reduced. ‘Reasons’ for termination have been expanded to include mergers, acquisitions, business efficiency, etc. In such cases, workers’ right to receive twice the basic severance pay has been revoked. Employers who fail to pay pensions to the workers will no longer be subject to criminal sanction. If termination is resulting from company closure due to continuous losses or force majeure, the company does not need to prove it by presenting company's financial statements for the last two years. These provisions are open to abuse. Women workers will be most vulnerable to layoffs as in a patriarchal society, they have less bargaining power and representation.

Seventh, with a patriarchal mindset, Omnibus Law reduces the protection of women’s rights. Women workers can no longer enjoy paid menstrual leave, maternity leave and miscarriage leave, or the right to breastfeed. The wage system introduced by the Law, which is determined by the unit of time and/or unit of yield, will not cover the enjoyment of such rights.

Based on the above explanation, it’s clear the Omnibus Law, with its patriarchal character, was designed to protect the interest of business actors and capital owners and negate the fulfilment of labour rights. Women workers, who are vulnerable to being subjugated and excluded, should join hands to resist this oppressive law.

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