Labour regulations and the welfare of Indonesian workers: much ado about nothing?

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1 Labour regulations and the welfare of Indonesian workers: much ado about nothing? Presented by: Iyanatul Islam Employment Policy Department ILO, Geneva RDW conference, ILO, Geneva, July 8,

2 Acknowledgements The presentation draws on: joint work published as part of a new book [Dhanani/Islam/Chowdhury on the Indonesian Labour Market scheduled for release by Routledge, July 13, 2009] research assistance provided by Mr Zulfan Tajoeddin 2

3 Contents Introduction Labour regulations in Indonesia: issues and evidence Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework Concluding remarks 3

4 Introduction Indonesia once heralded as a rare exemplar of HPEA (high performing East Asian economy World Bank 1993) Overwhelmed by the 1997 financial crisis when growth fell by 13% (1998), real wages collapsed by 40% (1998) Impaired structural change as workers who lost jobs in the formal economy moved back to agriculture and the informal economy Eventually recovered with growth in the 5 6% range But growth now expected to be around 4 to 4.5% as a result of the current global recession 4

5 Indonesia between the 97 crisis and today 8% of workers do not earn a living wage [according to US 1 $ a day], but 55% of workers do not earn a living wage based on a middle income economy standard [US $2 a day] Furthermore, no appreciable improvement over the last 4/5 years Real wages recovered from the crisis of 1997, but have been lean years, so that real wages are no higher today than 1997 [Graph] Vulnerable employment stands at 62% [as at 2006] vs 64% in the past [1996]; involuntary underemployment has gone up a little from 13.1 per cent to 14.4 per cent between 2001 and 2006 Updates by ILO, Jakarta for 2008 show little improvement 5 5

6 Labour regulations in Indonesia: issues and evidence A major debate in Indonesia today is the extent to which onerous labour regulations have led to poor employment outcomes Critics point to rapid growth in minimum wages and severance pay schemes that are excessive by regional standards Reforming current regulations will improve the business climate, boost growth and employment prospects The evidence in favour of this thesis is not robust hence much ado about nothing 6 6

7 Labour regulations in Indonesia: issues and evidence Econometric estimates of the minimum wageemployment trade off show that it exists for the informal economy, but not for the formal The size of the trade off is modest Our estimates of sectoral employment functions show that a 10% cut in nominal wages will boost employment by only 1.8% in the manufacturing sector and will have no impact on many other sectors 7

8 Labour regulations in Indonesia: issues and evidence Global surveys that measure labour market rigidity show that there is improvement in recent years [Fraser Institute] [graph] Others show no change [World Bank Doing Business Survey ] [Table] Local surveys of business perceptions show improvements 2007 World Bank report suggests that the effects of recent labour regulations [esp. the Manpower Protection Act of 2003 ] might be wearing off Furthermore, both global and local surveys point out that labour regulations are only one out of many factors that influence the investment climate In any case, real wages been stagnant since 2004 and unit labour costs have fallen Thus, even a fully deregulated labour market will not create a jobs revolution without changes in other aspects of the regulatory and policy regime 8 8

9 Labour regulations in Indonesia: issues and evidence We should not simply dismisses concerns about labour regulations and uncritically uphold the status quo Current regulations pertaining to minimum wages and industrial relations are probably too rigid We need a nuanced and holistic approach This leads us to a discussion of appropriate policy and regulatory responses to Indonesia s labour market challenges 9 9

10 Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework Macroeconomic policy framework reflects: [a] the practice of inflation targeting; [b] the need to avoid fiscal dominance Bank Indonesia has set 4 7% inflation target for the shortterm and 3% for the long term It uses interest rate policy to attain this pre announced target Is inflation targeting conducive to employment friendly growth? The evidence is mixed in the case of developed economies and even less clear cut in the case of developing economies 10 10

11 Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework Bank Indonesia should shift its emphasis from preannounced inflation targets to a role in which it supports the national implementation of MDGs and DW agenda (MDG1/target 1B) Fiscal policy is geared towards management of public debt and concerned with rationalising fuel subsidies This has created fiscal space, but some economists argue that reduction of subsidies to the financial sector would have been more equitable and efficient The long term goal of fiscal policy is to mobilize domestic and external resources in a non inflationary manner to finance the attainment of MDGs and DW indicators This requires an increase in the tax/gdp ratio 11 11

12 Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework The key labour market policies in Indonesia are : [1] minimum wages and mandatory benefits; [2] social protection [entailing social insurance and social assistance] Minimum wages and mandatory benefits We recommend: [1] re orientation of local government driven minimum wages to serve as benchmark for monitoring working poor ; [2] substantial moderation of severance pay by implementing well designed unemployment benefits scheme The best way forward is to invest intellectual and political capital in consolidating growth and business friendly industrial relations system that can also accommodate the democratic and material aspirations of workers 12 12

13 Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework Social protection [social assistance and social insurance] There have been notable achievements in the sphere of social assistance Examples include the National People Empowerment Program [PNPM], health insurance for the poor and conditional cash transfer scheme [CCT] PNPM has received a positive evaluation in terms of capacity to reduce vulnerability through short term employment creation Other initiatives need rigorous evaluation before their effectiveness can be judged New legislation on social insurance has set an overarching framework and one now looks forward to appropriate implementation 13 13

14 Developing an appropriate regulatory and policy framework Active labour market policies Current emphasis seems to be on fostering youth entrepreneurship and youth self employment within a framework that supports the growth of the small and microbusiness sector In addition, the government s current aim is to invest in infrastructure in the medium term for significant job creation More attention needs to be given to interventions in the education and training system and for preparing young adults in their transition to work This is likely to reduce job search unemployment 14 14

15 Developing an appropriate policy and regulatory framework Investigations of the education poverty nexus and the wage premium for educational attainment show that lack of secondary education is an important determinant of poverty Yet, 40% of young job seekers and close to 60% of young self employed cannot attain secondary education because of pecuniary reasons Hence, secondary education should be made more affordable for all Indonesians There is also the issue of quality of education Investments in infrastructure, upgrading learning materials and improving teacher quality will boost overall quality of basic education Greater initiatives are also needed to prepare school leavers for labour market entry, given that less than 40% of young adults participate in any work experience programs and less than 30% receive job counselling 15 15

16 Concluding remarks A deregulated labour market will not yield major job dividends, but we should take on board the concerns of the business community and other stakeholders Monetary policy should support national implementation of MDGs and DW indicators within a framework of price stability Fiscal policy too should be geared towards attainment of MDGs and DW indicators by mobilizing domestic and external resources in a non inflationary manner There should be an appropriate mix of active and passive labour market policies to support the MDGs and DW indicators 16 16

17 Graph 1: Real wages [pink] fall between 2004 and 2007 and lie below GDP/worker [green] 17 17

18 Graph 2: Overall index of labour regulations [Fraser Institute] improves between 2002 and 2005 [10= best score] 18 18

19 Table 1 Indices pertaining to employing workers in Indonesia, [100 = worst score] seem to be constant Difficulty of hiring index Rigidity of hrs Difficulty of firing index Rigidity of employment index Firing costs[%salary] Source: World Bank 'Doing Business Survey', available at

20 Graph 3: Indonesia had inflation rate of approx.10% during high growth phase [ ] % Inflation Real GDP growth 20 20

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