20 Years of the PPRT Bill: Deceleration of Domestic Workers’ Value

Authors: Annisa Salsabila and Arimbi Fajari Furqon*

The Domestic Workers Protection Bill (RUU PPRT) officially became an initiative bill of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia on March 21, 2023, since it was first proposed to the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia in 2004 by Jala PRT and supported by Komnas Perempuan. Although it has not moved much, this momentum is a long-awaited step for domestic workers and the entire domestic worker advocacy network. There are at least 3 (three) reasons underlying the legislature must accelerate the process of discussing this bill.

Why is the PPRT Bill important?

First, the core activities carried out by domestic workers are the care economy. The care economy is a variety of productive work, both paid and unpaid work activities to provide direct and indirect care necessary for the physical, psychological, and social well-being of care-dependent groups such as children, the elderly, the disabled and the sick, as well as for working adults in prime age. This care work is often considered worthless and is imposed on women as “only” actors in the domestic sphere. People often assume that such care work does not require special skills and is not difficult so it does not need to be seen as a serious job. As a result, so far domestic workers have not been categorized as being in industrial relations based on Law 13/2003 on Manpower. Although the Government has tried to reduce the impact of the lack of protection for domestic workers through Permenaker Number 2 of 2015, the Permenaker is suspected to still not provide enough protection.

As a consequence, domestic workers have not received protection as stated in the Manpower Law such as minimum wage, social security, employment based on work agreements, leave, occupational safety and health to not have a trade union. In fact, the average wage of domestic workers is 20-30% of the UMR (JALA PRT research). Furthermore, in the JALA PRT survey in August 2021 of 743 domestic workers, 86% of domestic workers could not access national health insurance as participants in the Contribution Assistance Recipients (PBI) program. In fact, domestic workers experience a double burden in the scope of care work. It is first, not infrequently domestic workers who also take care of the employer’s pets. Second, part-time domestic workers who not only do care work in the employer’s home, but also in their own home. Komnas Perempuan Annual Record Data in 2020 also recorded that throughout 2019, there were 17 cases of domestic workers whose complaints were received by Komnas Perempuan directly. Meanwhile, 17 domestic worker cases were reported and handled by Women Crisis Centre & Non-Governmental Organizations (WCC & NGOs), and 2 domestic worker cases were handled by district courts.

Second, the International Labour Organization (ILO) introduced the 5R concept for decent work, especially for care workers consisting of recognize, reduce, redistribute, represent, and reward. The PPRT Bill supports the ‘5R framework’, mainly in the reward concept. The awards include leave for domestic workers, holiday benefits, health and employment social security, and humane working hours. Although domestic workers’ wages are based only on an agreement or employment agreement between domestic workers and employers, with the existence of legal products that juridically-formally recognize domestic workers as falling under the scope of employment relations, domestic workers should have a stronger bargaining position to negotiate in the formulation of employment agreements with employers. Although in the end the absence of minimum wage provisions will certainly be a topic in itself.

Third, domestic workers should be conceptualized based on the ILO-189 Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (hereinafter referred to as C-189) which has not yet been ratified by Indonesia. C-189 provides for ideal working conditions for domestic workers, including weekly rest periods of at least 24 consecutive working hours (Article 10), written contracts (Article 7), protection from harassment and violence (Article 5), pre-conditions for payment in goods (article 12), social security (Article 14), standards regarding domestic workers living in workers’ homes (Articles 6-10), migrant domestic workers standards (Article 8), and some other form of decent working conditions. C-189, which has not been ratified by Indonesia, also has the impact of international mechanisms through the ILO that cannot bind Indonesia.

Decent working conditions as drafted through C-189 serve to provide maximum protection for domestic workers. Decent work regulated by the ILO accommodates aspects of promoting and realizing fundamental principles and rights in the world of work, creating greater opportunities for women and men to guarantee decent work and income, increasing the scope of social protection for all, and strengthening social dialogue. However, based on JALA PRT research in 2017-2022, domestic workers experience various forms of violence, including psychological violence in the form of degrading and isolation, physical violence, economic violence in the form of unpaid wages, deducted wages due to illness, domestic workers’ money used to shop for unreimbursed needs, and various other forms of economic violence.

PPRT Bill and Its Loopholes

The main points of the PPRT Bill include first, recognition as workers, second, the welfare of domestic workers as workers and citizens, third, protection and balance of employment relations between employers and domestic workers, fourth, classification of categories of domestic workers, fifth, classification and scope of work, sixth, terms and conditions of work, seventh, rights and obligations for employers and domestic workers, eighth, Education and training, ninth, abolition of child domestic workers, and tenth, dispute resolution.

Several important things need to be underlined in the points of formulation of the PPRT Bill. First, the general point of the PPRT Bill does not mention the Minimum Wage that domestic workers should receive. This is a factor in the low wages often received by domestic workers. The bargaining power of these wages results in domestic workers not having a decent living wage, which is disproportionate to the abilities and skills needed or undervalued. Second, in the element of decent work, a guarantee is given for hourly overtime pay. However, the formulation of the PPRT Bill does not contain this. Third, the guarantee of freedom of communication, organization, association and the right to collective bargaining is also not regulated in the general points of the PPRT Bill. Normatively, Article 2 of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (C087) states that all workers and employers without distinction of any kind have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join an organization of their own choice without prior permission. Similarly, the strengthening of these provisions is also regulated in the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (C098) to ensure that workers enjoy adequate protection against association and organizational activities. This protection guarantee is important to regulate because the PPRT Bill is expected to guarantee decent work for domestic workers.

*Arimbi Fajari Furqon, magister law student at Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. 

Annisa Salsabila
Annisa Salsabila
Faculty of Law, University of Bengkulu