Expats Looking for a Job in Indonesia
Are you one of the many expats who would like to look for work in Indonesia? Then, this article is for you! We get many inquiries on this site and postings on the Expat Forum from expatriates who want to relocate to Indonesia, or are already here, perhaps as a “trailing spouse”, and are looking for work.
Although researching the job possibilities may start prior to arriving in Indonesia it is preferable that you are physically in country before you start to send out CVs. Being able to respond immediately to leads and requests for interviews, as well as to network, is invaluable in a job search. Frankly speaking, it will be very hard for you to locate employment in Indonesia, if you are not physically there.
Government policies towards hiring expats
Be informed that employment in Indonesia is not truly open to expatriates. Early 2016 statistics show that nearly 5.5% of the population is unemployed and a significant percentage of those are professionals. Indonesian government policy is very clear that it does not want a company in Indonesia, domestic or foreign, to hire an expatriate for a job that can be done by an Indonesian. There are too many unemployed Indonesians looking for work!
This policy pretty much precludes the young, adventuring expat with little work experience from getting a job in Indonesia, except as an English teacher or volunteer with an international organization.
Indonesia is one of the few countries in the word that has a Negative Investment List. This is a list issued by the government that prohibits or restricts foreign investment in particular sectors. Obviously if investment is restricted, employment in those sectors is also affected.
In order for a company in Indonesia to hire an expatriate, they must have permission from the government. Obtaining this permission can be time consuming, costly for the company, and extremely bureaucratic. Hiring an expatriate is not a decision taken lightly by local or multinational companies.
Government policy states that foreigners who work in Indonesia must be “experts” in their field. This precludes your average recent university graduate from working here - as the Indonesian government defines an expert as someone who has been working in their field professionally for 5 or more years.
The only exception we've seen to this is for native speakers teaching English.
For the the Indonesian government to accept a company's application for your employment, the company must:
- justify why this position needs to be filled by an expat,
- show that the expat has the proper educational background
- satisfy the questions of the department of manpower at the interview
- And there must be an open slot in the company's submitted/approved manpower plan
If these requirements (and others) are satisfied, then the expatriate can be issued a work permit. After the work permit is approved, the company can apply for a semi-resident visa for the new employee - Work Permit First - Visa Second! More information on documents needed by expatriates can be found at Visas and Documentation.
If you do not have a work permit, you are not working legally! Be sure that your employer has gotten the full documentation for you. Some employment in the informal section is allowed if the foreigner is married to an Indonesia, but the regulations aren't 100% clear on this exception and are open to interpretation.
In addition to the applications and bureaucratic hassles of hiring foreigners, the company must pay a monthly tax of $100 for each foreigner they hire. These funds are paid to the Manpower Ministry - who uses the funds for training programs to increase the skills of Indonesians. Just this tax alone results in a $1,200 cost/year/foreign employee to the hiring company.
Relevant regulation: Law No. 13, year 2003
Chapter VIII - Employment of Foreign Workers
(1) Every employer that employs foreign worker is under an obligation to obtain written permission (Work Permit) from Minister.
(2) An employer who is an individual person is prohibited from employing foreign worker.
Working Without a Work Permit
We do not advise working in Indonesia without a work permit!
Relevant regulation: Law No. 6 - year 2011
Shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five (5) years and fined at most Rp 500.000.000, 00 (five hundred million rupiah):
a. any foreigner who deliberately misuse or engage in activities not in accordance with the intent and purpose of the Visa/Stay Permit given to him/her;
b. any person who ordered or provide opportunity for the foreigner to misuse or engage in activities inconsistent with intent or purpose of the Visa/Stay Permit given to him/her.
Shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five (5) years and fined at most Rp500.000.000, 00 (five hundred million rupiah):
a. any person who knowingly gives a letter or false or falsified data or untrue statement with intent of obtaining Visas or Stay Permit for himself/herself or others;
b. any foreigner who deliberately use the Visa or Stay Permit, as referred to in item a above, to enter and / or stay in Indonesia.
Expats in Indonesia
The working members of the expatriate community in Indonesia consists of the following major groupings:
- Expatriates sent by their company to work in Indonesia - overseas placement of existing employees
- Career diplomats assigned to the foreign embassies and consulates in Indonesia
- Investors - persons who have invested in companies or set up companies in Indonesia
- Aid workers for international organizations and NGOs
- Local hires - expats who found jobs on their own in Indonesia
- Expatriate spouses of Indonesian citizens
In each of these cases the employment considerations differ.
Tried and True Methods
Just as in most job seeking environments there are tried and true methods for finding a job, a few of which we discuss here:
- Get your resume out to everyone you know. Indonesia is NOT an information-based society. Information can be difficult to find. Even if the person/company you are contacting does not have a job opening, they may share knowledge of your availability with others - thus leading to additional prospects. Or, while there may not be a current need, something may come up with the company in the future, and your CV will be in their files. You never know which friend or colleague may become aware of openings in your field. Getting word out to one and all of your availability is wise.
- Networking is often the key to employment. There are several effective ways in which you can network in Indonesia. 1) join a professional association for your field, 2) join an expatriate business association, 3) pound the pavement -- attending every possible function you can and pass out your card, 4) join community organizations, sports clubs and church communities, and 4) volunteer for everything you can find the time to do. Through these volunteer activities you will meet people who may be able to steer you towards employment. Every time you meet someone who you think might be instrumental in your job search, follow up that meeting with an email, note, letter, fax or call.
- Inviting key people in your industry to lunch (on you) and picking their brain would also be an effective way to find out what is going on in your field.
- Get a job working for a multinational in your home country, then work towards an assignment in Indonesia from inside the company.
- Come to Indonesia and start learning Bahasa Indonesia on a social/visit visa (or a dependent spouse visa if your spouse is already employed in Indonesia). Then join the various community/professional organizations and start networking to look for a job. Note, you cannot legally work on a tourist or visit visa!
- Post your resume on Internet job forums and bulletin boards, both in Indonesia and abroad.
- Contact a Jakarta Executive Search or Recruiting firm or those based throughout Asia. To our knowledge there is no executive search firm in Jakarta that deals exclusively with expatriates. Several big international search firms have representative offices in Jakarta, as well as several excellent local firms. Most of these companies get few inquiries from their local clients for expatriate searches as they deal 99% with searches for senior Indonesian managers. They may, however be willing to take your CV into their database for that one-off expat search. It's also possible that a search firm in Singapore or Hong Kong may actually get searches for positions in Indonesia ... so spread your resume around the region.
In some instances multinationals may be looking for expatriates who are already residing in Indonesia. They may value the person's Indonesian experience and familiarity with the language, business climate, and working conditions. In these cases, the company will orient the local hire to the company, instead of orienting a person from the home office to Indonesia. These positions are few and far between. Be sure to mention Bahasa Indonesia language skills and Indonesian work experience or business/cultural knowledge in your job application.
These people are considered valuable if they possess: 1) Indonesian industry-relevant experience, 2) Technical skills that nationals don't have, or 3) Bahasa Indonesia skills. Those expatriates married to Indonesian spouses have an additional factor in their favor-. a perceived longevity and commitment to Indonesia as well as an increased level of understanding of cross-cultural differences.
Good advice -- read the fine print of every contract and try to contact people who work there before you sign the employment contract.
The official minimum wage in Indonesia differs by province. In Jakarta the minimum wage is Rp 4.267,439/month (January 2020). It is adjusted every year and the new rate usually comes into effect in January. There is no clear direction or decision from the government as to if this applies equally to workers in informal sectors as well as company employees. Note that if the employment of household staff is recorded on the financial statement of a multinational company, the company is obliged by law to pay the individual at least minimal wage.
Transfer of Knowledge - Expats to Indonesians
Most foreign companies in Indonesia will expect the to expat mentor to share knowledge of his/her position with an Indonesian counterpart. The foreign company must then plan the methods whereby knowledge will be transferred so that the Indonesian citizen will be prepared to take over the position by the end of the expat's employment in Indonesia.
These steps is often stated in the Manpower Plan that the company agrees upon with the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower. The government's goal towards transfer of knowledge to Indonesian citizens is understandable considering the millions of Indonesians who are looking for work and the high costs of employing expatriates.
Most multinationals are agreeable with these requirements however there has been concern that even though the national has been trained and is aware of the expectation of international management, it is seen that Indonesian mangers sometimes allow standards and the international company's business practices to relax under total Indonesian management. This is a cause of concern within any multinational company, however, it becomes even more critical when safety and potential accidents are in question that endanger staff, the environment, or the company's investment.
This site receives many inquiries from foreign nationals who want to teach in Indonesia. If you want to teach at an international school and have a teaching degree and current teaching qualifications and experience, please consult our listing of international schools for their contact information. There are also several websites that provide information for foreign teachers about various postings overseas in international schools around the world. They provide information on upcoming job fairs for international teachers in cities around the world. Just search for "teaching jobs in Indonesia" on Google.
For native speakers who would like to teach English in Indonesia, a teaching certificate, TEFL, TESL, TESOL, CELTA, or DELTA is required by the Indonesian government to prove that you are a qualified expert. If you have of certification (TESL, TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, or DELTA) from an accredited institution and are a native speaker (see below) - you are considered an expert in the field of teaching English - even if you are a fresh graduate. Though, of course, most employers prefer someone with experience.
ITAS work permits are only issued to EFL teachers from one of these five countries: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There are several language schools who have started recruiting on our Expat Forum, so check and see if there are any recent job listings, or post your credentials in the "Expats Seeking Employment" channel. A surf of the Internet will also result in websites for other English schools in Indonesia, that you can then contact direct to inquire about employment opportunities.
There is usually an age limit in most schools hiring practices as it is difficult for them to get a visa for persons over the age of 50.
English teaching jobs may be available for native speakers with little/no training, but small schools may not be able to undergo the expense to get you a work permit/visa ... so you would be working illegally, which is never advised! Be sure that the company will cover all the costs of documentation and permits to work legally!
If you want to obtain credentials to become a certified English teacher in Indonesia, check our IALF's Teacher Training programs, where you can get certified in a number of programs so that you can be employed as an English teacher in Indonesia.
Teaching Languages Besides English
For those interesting in teaching Dutch, German or French, please contact the appropriate Cultural Center or Embassy as they offer language classes. National Business Associations may also be aware of particular schools that are looking for native speakers of other languages.
Many of the activities you engaged in to find your job will also keep you in close touch with your business colleagues once you are working. In the event your contract ends and you are looking for employment again all those years of networking will help to get you re-employed!
Speaking the language, Bahasa Indonesia, is an important key to success in the Indonesian work place. IALF does a great job of teaching Bahasa Indonesia to foreigners (in Jakarta, Bali and Surabaya) and can customize courses to your specific needs.
Another important part of job retention is an understanding of working with Indonesians. Read through our Cross Cultural Training articles for more information on achieving a successful work environment in an Indonesian office.
Best of luck on your job search!
Finding a Job through a Jakarta Headhunter
Executive Search Consultants in Singapore and Hong Kong
Expatriate Compensation Packages
Employing Expatriates in Indonesia
Indonesia Salary Guide 2019 - Michael Page
Indonesia Employment Outlook and 2019 Salary Guide - by Kelly
All It Takes Is One Bad Apple: The Value of Pre-employment Screening and Due Diligence
Living in Indonesia Expat Forum Job Listings - post your interest and availability and check out the job listings
Last updated November 26, 2019