Lack of skilled workers a challenge for Indonesia

Opportunities abound but worker skills are lagging behind, according to officials.

By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

June 25, 2013
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Despite the sluggish global economy, Indonesia is expected to grow at 6.2% in 2013. Some experts say if it can sustain the robust growth rate, Indonesia could become one of the world's leading economies by 2030.

  • Thousands of job seekers stand in line at a job fair in Jakarta in September 2012. A similar event held June 10th-13th in Pekanbaru offered more than 9,000 openings. [Ismoyo/AFP]

    Thousands of job seekers stand in line at a job fair in Jakarta in September 2012. A similar event held June 10th-13th in Pekanbaru offered more than 9,000 openings. [Ismoyo/AFP]

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But the Southeast Asian giant is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers – a factor that could prevent many citizens from taking advantage of the boom times ahead.

Only 8% of Indonesians are college graduates, according to Co-ordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa, quoted by Jaring News.

"We can predict that in 2040 we will only reach a 20% level of college graduates," Hatta told Khabar Southeast Asia.

He warned that with the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community – a plan to transform the region into a single market and production base by 2015 – many Indonesians will be left behind if they do not prepare themselves with the appropriate knowledge and job skills.

"We need to encourage our children to read more and study more," he said.

Vacancies unfilled

Opportunity for employment is not lacking. A recent job fair in Pekanbaru, capital of Sumatra's Riau Province, advertised more than 9,000 positions.

But many of those positions are hard to fill. At last year's fair, only 53% of applicants met vacancy requirements. Many lacked the necessary skills, including foreign languages, according to an evaluation by the local government, which organised the event.

Qualified candidates, on the other hand, were snapped up. The fair was held June 10th-13th at the city's Hotel Mutiara.

"I came to the event last night with two of my colleagues," Adriyana Sitompul, a 26 year-old Atma Jaya University graduate, told Khabar.

"There were many opportunities that you can pursue. Some of them require specific skills such as computer and language skills.

"One of my colleagues got a job with a private company from the fair," she added. "She interviewed with the company yesterday, and she got hired."

Half the jobs were outside Indonesia, including more than 2,500 vacancies in South Korea in the construction, fishery, plantation and caregiving sectors, and another 2,000 in Japan.

"This is a good opportunity for Indonesians to work globally," 23-year-old Jakarta resident Rony Syah told Khabar. "However, this is also a warning for the government that more and more skilled workers are going overseas. It means Indonesia may soon lack skilled workers.

"If the country wants to compete on the global stage, Indonesia needs to encourage its citizens to gain more job skills," he said.

Path to a better future

Jakarta resident Henny Marhaenny, 56, has noticed the trend of skilled workers leaving.

"In general in Java, it is very hard to find a contractor to build a house. And if any, they are now very expensive. It is because many skilled workers have gone overseas to countries such as Malaysia, Korea, or Japan," she said.

High school graduate Hariyanto Suryo, 19, has found his opportunities limited due to his level of education. He works in a Central Jakarta restaurant as an office boy.

"I had been looking for a job in my village for more than a year since I graduated from high school last year. However, I did not find anything. So I decided to leave my village and come to Jakarta," he said.

"Based on my experience I've noticed that without any skills such as in business, computer science, automotive repair, etc., it will be really hard to find a job."

He said he plans to go to college while working in the city. "I want to study agriculture. My father has a lot of rice fields. Someday, with my new skills, I want to return to my village and be more useful," he told Khabar with a tone of optimism.

Reader Comments
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    • rania
      July 5, 2013 @ 09:07:32PM
    • Tuition fees have ballooned out of control, of course people are unable to pay. Even if we waited until the end of time we will not get skilled people. And even if we did, it would have taken a sackful of bribe money to get them.

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