Helping migrant domestic workers in Indonesia benefit more from their Employment

For Seefar, designing programs around low-skilled labour migration is a great opportunity to improve life for poor people. We are working with first time migrant domestic workers in Indonesia to ensure that they are able to better protect themselves from current exploitative industry practices. This will mean that they can benefit more from their employment abroad. However, the markets for this labour demand attention because of the abuse and exploitation that is so common in them. First time migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous recruitment agencies when searching for work abroad. This project works with those planning to migrate from Indonesia as domestic workers to recognise exploitation and effect better decision-making. Moreover, it aims to develop and support more ethical recruitment options.

Seefar’s research showed that first time domestic workers from Indonesia are often not aware of the exploitative practices they face during the recruitment phase. Similarly, they have little understanding of the level of the debt they might be assuming or potential exploitative practices prevalent in the countries in which they will work, particularly Hong Kong and Singapore. To address these gaps, Seefar is developing a targeted communications campaign that focuses on empowering and educating first time migrant domestic workers in Indonesia before they migrate. In its initial year, the project covers three target areas in Indonesia: Cirebon, Indramayu and Malang.

The public campaign will run primarily on social media and in local press, targeting women likely to become migrant domestic workers. In community events, key messages will be distributed by market influencers (returned migrant domestic workers) to potential migrants. Our trained counsellors will work individually with women making decisions about migrating for work to help them protect themselves and benefit more from their employment. Another element of the campaign targets recruitment agencies through direct engagement as well as partnership campaigns with those agencies that are willing to change their practices. In addition, Seefar will will establish a baseline of current recruitment practices and market conditions by identifying recruitment agencies in the target areas that use unethical and exploitative practices and those that do not.

The campaign, one of our initiatives from our Skunk Work, will aid Indonesian first time migrant domestic workers travelling abroad to understand their rights, select better recruiters, plan better financially and to benefit more from their employment overall. By working directly with recruitment agencies and developing a baseline of current practices, Seefar contributes to a structural shift in the recruitment market in Indonesia that is in urgent need of viable competitors to existing migrant employment arrangements. We will collect evidence to help governments identify the positive changes they can make to legislation and international agreements.

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