Jakarta. Home workers, or pekerja rumahan, in Indonesia are not officially recognized by the government because they fall outside the narrow definition of what constitutes wage-based workers or entrepreneurs as outlined in the country's 2003 labor law.
Accordingly, home workers do not have access to the same legal protection and labor rights as officially recognized workers. Home workers are often ex-employees of factories who continue to work on producing products for their former employers from home.
A disproportionate number of home workers in the country are women who have been forced to quit factory jobs to look after their children at home due to the high costs of hiring babysitters.
In North Jakarta's Penjaringan neighborhood, a home worker who produces shoes for a local company said she receives Rp 500 ($0.04) for each shoe she finishes. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to produce a single shoe, depending on the model.
“The shoes we make sell for around Rp 390,000 at the mall. We can't afford the products that we make," the home worker, who requested anonymity, added.
In Penjaringan, home workers live close to one another and typically produce shoes or garments for local companies. Because they do not have access to benefits, overtime pay, leave rights or social security, they are largely on their own to cover any work-related expenses, as well as medical fees if they get sick. Unlike officially recognized workers in the country, they do not have access to state-provided health insurance, known as BPJS.
“If I get sick because of work, the company gives me nothing," said another laborer, who previously worked at a local shoe factory for more than 10 years.
“To not inhale fumes from glue I use to make the products, I use two fans. The company does not even provide masks for us," she added.
Home workers receive raw materials from their employers usually delivered through an intermediary, but all production costs, including electricity, equipment and transport, are borne solely by the worker.
“I need to buy Rp 375,000 worth of glue in order to produce 300 pairs of shoes. Once I finish, I need to pay more to transport the goods to the factory. A rickshaw trip costs me Rp 20,000, there and back again."
The Trade Union Rights Centre (TURC), a Jakarta-based NGO, advocates for and produces research on home workers to help inform the public on their vulnerable working conditions and to urge the government to finally grant legal protection and labor rights for such workers. TURC currently has 600 members throughout Jakarta, Tangerang (Baten), Solo (Central Java), Sukoharjo (Central Java), Cirebon (West Java) and Sukabumi (West Java).
Although data on the total number of home workers across the country is scarce, a 2013 study by Australian-Indonesian government initiative Maju Perempuan Indonesia untuk Penanggulangan Kemiskinan (Mampu) showed that there were at least 4,700 vulnerable workers in seven provinces across the country. The total number of home workers across the country is believed to be much larger.
A worker produces garments at her home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo / Yudha Baskoro)
Tools used by a worker to produce clothes for a local company at her home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
The residence of a home worker in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A worker prepares shoe soles at her home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A worker on her way to deliver finished products to her employer's factory in North Jakarta on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Home workers live in slums in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, largely due to low wages and lack of company benefits. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A worker glues together shoe soles at her home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Designs of shoe models provided by local companies hang above a worker's desk at her home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10).
A child sits beside her mother, who is busy producing shoes for a local company, at their home in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10).
Laborers seen producing garments for a local company at a shared space in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, on Thursday (05/10). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
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