The Real Story Behind the Numbers: The impacts of the global economic crisis 2008-2009 on Indonesia's women workers

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This research report is one of four case studies commissioned by Oxfam GB on the impact of the global economic crisis on women in East Asian countries. It aims to uncover how women in Indonesia have been affected, especially those working in industrial zones. Through qualitative methods such as focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the research found that despite a quick response from the central government of Indonesia, many women workers are likely to remain untouched by the government's stimulus package. This report confirms that the crisis affects men and women differently, in the context of industrial relations and the social construct of gender relations. Unemployment has been slightly reduced by labour market flexibility and the growth of the informal sector in Indonesia, despite the rising number of lay-offs. However, this exposes women workers to less income and means they do not have access to social protection measures. Less income also means that in the family, women workers tend to reduce their food and other consumption and are more prone to domestic conflicts that lead to violence. Pressures to become migrant workers are among the desperate choices faced by women workers.
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    www.oxfam.org.uk  The Real Story Behind the Numbers The impacts of the global economic crisis 2008–2009 on Indonesia’s women workers May Miller-Dawkins, Irwansyah, and Roysepta Abimanyu   A report by Oxfam GB in Indonesia  February 2010 OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT    The Real Story Behind the Numbers , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 2 Acknowledgements The research team would like to thank to all persons who have been helpful in giving information, updates and interview/discussion time. While it is not possible to mention all of them, we would give special appreciation for Ms. Michaela Prokop of UNDP Indonesia Crisis Monitoring Unit, Mr. Simon and Mr. Beno of KASBI, and Mr. Fauzan Mahdami of LIPS.  The Real Story Behind the Numbers , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 3 Contents Executive Summary ........................................................................................................4   1. Introduction .................................................................................................................6   1.1   Methodology and challenges ..........................................................................6   2.   Impacts of the global economic crisis (GEC) ....................................................8   2.1   Transmission of the crisis ................................................................................8   2.2   Economic resilience or lag of impacts? ..........................................................8   2.3   Impacts on jobs ..................................................................................................9   3.   Government responses ........................................................................................12   3.1   Fiscal stimulus .................................................................................................12   3.2   Good fiscal position? .......................................................................................12   3.3   On social protection ........................................................................................13   4.   Measuring the government responses and the realities faced by women workers ...........................................................................................................................15   4.1   Labour flexibility .............................................................................................15   4.2   Coping strategies .............................................................................................16   4.3   Migration and migrant workers ....................................................................18   4.4   Impacts on access to social protection programs and essential services .20   5.   Conclusions and recommendations..............................................................21  The Real Story Behind the Numbers , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 4 Executive Summary The Global Economic Crisis 2008–2009 (GEC) was transmitted to Indonesia mainly through the decline of demand from foreign markets. The crisis arrived in the last quarter of 2008, making a contraction of economic activities within the manufacturing sector. Export numbers from the sector slumped by 25.4%, putting the workers out of  jobs or in temporary lay-off. The loss of jobs, however, happened in the context of a long-term push for labor market flexibility that had started early in this decade. Many workers were sent home with inadequate compensation schemes, others were “offered” a change in contract terms: from permanent employment into a fixed term contract. This preliminary study aims to uncover the impacts of the GEC on women, especially on those who have been working in the industrial zones. Through the qualitative methods, such as focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the research found that despite a rather quick response from the Central Government of Indonesia, many women workers would remain untouched by the stimulus package prepared by the government. This study confirms that the crisis affects men and women differently, within the current regime of industrial relations and the social construct of gender relations. Despite the rising number of lay-offs, labor market flexibility and the growth of the informal sector slightly reduces unemployment. However, this exposes women workers to less income and no social protection. Less income also means that in the family, women workers tend to reduce their food and other consumption and are more prone to domestic conflicts that lead to violence. Pressures to become migrant workers and enter prostitution are now part of desperate choices faced by women workers. The recommendations made in this study should be regarded as insights for further policy research, as the study itself has limitations in terms of quantitative methods and has done only a preliminary inquiry on social protection issues. Nevertheless, looking at its findings, the study would strongly argue for better social protection schemes and implementation in Indonesia, with strong focus on women and their participation in the economy. For the time being, the following suggestions should be carried out with a specific focus on gender:  Engagement of women’s groups and civil society through appropriate mechanisms to contribute information and analysis into the Monitoring and Response Committee of the government;   Enforcement of labor laws to protect women workers’ rights more effectively: the labor law is inconsistently enforced leading to abuses, including lack of severance pay and union busting;   The economic crisis could be an opportunity for Indonesia to build an effective social floor by expanding social protection, particularly unemployment insurance to workers in the informal sector. Social protection and insurance need extending so that informal sector workers are covered, particularly if they are to withstand economic volatility.  Filling the gaps in the monitoring effort: providing for effective monitoring of migrants, particularly domestic workers, impacts in the informal sector and a stronger gender analysis including consistent collection of gender disaggregated data; 
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