Asia Minute: Indonesians Protest New Labor Law

Oct 9, 2020

Thousands of protestors have turned out this week in city streets across Indonesia. They oppose a new law that went into effect this week affecting many parts of the country’s economy.

The focus of the nationwide protests is the “Job Creation Law” — which took effect on Monday. But employment is just one of the issues covered in its more than 900 pages — amending some 79 existing laws.  

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says the measure will cut red tape — making it easier to attract foreign investment and stimulate the economy.

Among other changes, the minimum wage will now be set by regional governors, rather than a national system based on sectors of the economy. Restrictions on outsourcing and the use of expatriate labor have been cut, and some environmental regulations have been reduced.

Also, businesses now only need to give workers one day off a week, instead of two.

Unions staged a three-day national strike through Thursday to protest the law, while labor and environmental activists have joined demonstrations, along with some human rights groups.

The Jakarta Post reports that tens of thousands of people have turned out around the country for gatherings that largely began peacefully, but have turned violent in several cities, including the capital of Jakarta.

Police report more than 800 arrests by Thursday in the capital city alone.