Doing Business 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.

Perhaps the first thing to ask , is “Are you already in Indonesia?” As job seekers around the world know, 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

The second, most important thing is you must realize is that employment in Indonesia is not truly open to expatriates. 2008 government figures show that 8.4% of the population is unemployed and 10+% 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.
Work Permits

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 to 10 or more years. The only exception we’ve found to this rule is for native speakers (from the US, UK, Canada Australia or New Zealand, only) teaching English. If you have official teaching qualifications from an accredited institution and are a native speaker – you are already considered an expert in the field of teaching English – even if you are a fresh graduate.

If the Indonesian government accepts a company’s application for your employment (if there is a place in their manpower plan), 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.

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 ostensibly 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.
Expats in Indonesia

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 – in too much detail to be discussed here.
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 is very 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.
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. Be advised that 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 good 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.
Local hires

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 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.

All foreign companies in Indonesia are expected to Indonesianize (hire Indonesians to replace expatriates) certain positions within a given period of time. This is stated in the Manpower Plan that the company agrees upon with the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower. The government’s goal towards Indonesianization is understandable considering the millions of Indonesians who are looking for work and the high cost of employing expatriates. Companies who hire expatriates are expected to train up existing employees or hire competent Indonesian professionals to replace their expatriates within a given period of time.
Teaching Jobs

This site receives many inquiries from foreign nationals who want to teach in Indonesia. If you want to teach at an international school, 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.

For native speakers who would like to teach their language in Indonesia, a teaching certificate, TESL, TESOL, or other teaching qualification is required by the Indonesian government to prove that you are a qualified expert. KITAS 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 listings. A good surf of the Internet will also result in websites of other schools in Indonesia, that you can then contact direct to inquire about employment opportunities.

English teaching jobs may be available for native speakers with little/no training, but these small schools often will not be able to get you a work permit/visa … so you will be working illegally. In general the visa for teaching situation was summed up by one poster on the Expat Forum:

Language school teacher – usually a certificate in TESOL is required, but at the moment if you have a degree in anything without any experience you can get in, if you present yourself well. Language schools in Indonesia are desperate for native speaker English teachers.

National plus school – you need to be a qualified teacher, but there are some schools that will take in non-qualified teachers if they present themselves well.

International schools – you definitely need accredited teacher qualifications.

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.
Staying employed

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, Surabaya and Bali) 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 !


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