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Flood of illegal workers in Bali is the result of weak supervision: gov't

The rapid growth of tourism in Bali, Indonesia has drawn both local and foreign workers, including those without permits, to the island seeking employment in tourist establishments.

I Gde Pitana, chairman of the tourism human resources department at the Indonesia's Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, said the flood of illegal foreign workers was the result of weak supervision and law enforcement.

“Under the regulations, tourism establishments may employ expatriate workers at the upper managerial levels, such as general managers and directors,” Pitana said.

In reality, many foreigners were now working in lower managerial levels. “Most of them use tourist visas to stay here and extend their visa as necessary.”

He said he was concerned over the fact that many foreigners occupied lower managerial posts, which were supposed to be filled by local employees.

“Unfortunately, we don't have precise data on the real number of foreigners working at these levels,” Pitana added.

Pitana went further, saying that the flock of foreign workers in this sector had already started in the robust years of the island's tourist industry in the late 1970s and 1990s.

Demands for these particular groups of employees started when star-rated hotels opened their operations here and only a few locals could hold high-ranking managerial positions.

“The current condition is worse now as more and more foreigners work in star-rated hotels, villas and small-scale properties,” he said.

Bali, he said, was now welcoming tourists from all over the world. “In the past, we received tourists from our major traditional tourist markets, such as Australia, the United States, Japan, Taiwan and European countries,” he said.

Today, people came from other parts of the world such as Russia, the Middle East, China, India, African countries and Eastern Europe.

“With such a diverse demographic of tourists, the industry requires more people who are familiar with these languages and the cultures to cater to these specific groups of visitors,” Pitana explained.

Putu Satyawira Mahendra, chairman of the Tourism Workers Union, confirmed that the union welcomed foreign workers to Bali provided that they met with all the required employment standards.

“But we are very concerned over the excessive number of foreigners who work in the industry illegally,” he said.

Mahendra added that the Bali administration had always forced local workers to abide by the law and regulations. “At the same time, they (the authorities) are not enforcing the same rules on these illegal foreign workers. That is not fair.”

Chairman of Kuta Executive Club, Gusti Kade Sutawa, also admitted that many foreigners are now working in Bali illegally.

“They are not only working, but also doing business here in illegal ways,” he deplored.

Sutawa said that the key to solving the problem was consistent and strong law enforcement. “We already have adequate legal provisions regulating foreign workers. It is the government which has to enforce them.”

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