Indonesian workers take to streets on May Day to demand jobs law abolition

Demonstrators march with flags and banners during a rally in Jakarta on May 1, 2024, commemorating International Workers’ Day. - AFP

JAKARTA: Thousands of protesters took to the streets on International Workers’ Day, or May Day, on Wednesday (May 1) to demand the repeal of the controversial Job Creation Law, which has been accused of undercutting a wide range of workers’ rights and protections

Some 50,000 workers reportedly participated in the Wednesday march in Jakarta, while thousands of others attended similar rallies in Bandung, West Java; Semarang, Central Java; Surabaya, East Java; Makassar, South Sulawesi; as well as Aceh and Pekanbaru in Sumatra.

Although proponents of the jobs law championed it as a way to attract investment and boost the country’s economy by streamlining bureaucracy, the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Unions (KSPI) argued that it also impinged upon workers’ rights and welfare.

The controversial omnibus law, passed in late 2020, either reduces or completely eliminates workers’ rights to severance payments beyond a basic allowance. It also further relaxes legal requirements for the outsourcing of labour and allows certain industries, including micro and small enterprises, to forgo regional minimum wage requirements.

“Since the law came [into effect], workers’ purchasing power has declined by 30 per cent and inflation in industrial cities has risen to 2.8 per cent despite the average wage increase of 1.58 per cent,” KSPI chairman Said Iqbal said, as quoted by

“All of us workers are just covering the expenses of the top 1 per cent [wealthiest people in the country],” he added.

The relaxed rule on outsourced labour, he continued, had encouraged institutions to lay off full-time employees, increasing the unemployment rate in the country.

North Jakarta May Day rally organiser Usman said the jobs law was the number one enemy of workers because it had increased the disparity between the rich and poor.

“The law provides no certainty, but we need it so that we can retire in peace,” Usman said, as quoted by Antara.

The May Day protesters also called for the protection of vulnerable labour groups, including women and domestic workers. Calls were renewed for the passage of the domestic workers’ protection bill, which would provide domestic workers with legal protections from abuse and discrimination.

Discussions of the bill at the House of Representatives, however, have been stalled for the past 20 years. International Labour Organisation (ILO) data records some 4 million domestic workers in Indonesia, consisting mostly of women and children. None of them are protected by the prevailing jobs law.

Demonstrators in Central Java highlighted thousands of instances of mistreatment of domestic workers in recent years.

According to data from the National Advocacy Network for Domestic Workers (Jala PRT), more than 3,300 cases of abuse against domestic workers were recorded from 2021 to 2024.

“We demand that the government immediately ratifies the [domestic worker protection bill] because many domestic workers are still experiencing violence and there is no regulation to protect them,” said Raden Rara Ayu Hermawati Sasongko, the director of the Semarang chapter of the Legal Aid Foundation of the Women’s Association for Justice (LBH APIK Semarang), as reported by

The demands made on Wednesday come just six months before president-elect Prabowo Subianto is to take office.

As a candidate, Prabowo pledged to improve workers’ welfare. In a video statement released on May Day, Prabowo recognised workers’ important role in achieving Indonesia’s long-term goals.

“Let us build a better world for all Indonesian people, [including] its workers, laborers, families and future generations,” said the former Army general. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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