Sacked workers need cash, not pre-employment cards: Observers

CNN Indonesia – April 17, 2020
President Widodo promoting pre-employment card – Undated (Biro Pers Istana)

Jakarta – Trisakti University public policy analyst Trubus Rahadiansyah believes that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s strategy of overcoming the economic impact of the corona virus (Covid-19) with pre-employment cards is inappropriate.

Rahadiansyah said that most of those who have been impacted upon by the epidemic already have work skills in their respective areas. Rather, they have lost their incomes as a result of mass sackings (PHK).

“Workers who have been hit by PHK don’t need pre-employment cards, what they need is cash, cash assistance. It’s a good program but the timing isn’t right”, said Rahadiansyah when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Thursday April 16.

As has been reported, the pre-employment program was launched with a target of 5.6 million people who have been dismissed or informal workers whose incomes have declined as a consequence of the corona virus epidemic.

During a crisis such as this, he continued, it is inappropriate for the government to focus on preparing a skilled work force. According to Rahadiansyah, people need money to survive as a result of losing their incomes.

Rahadiansyah said that direct cash assistance (BLT) would be more appropriate because it will restore purchasing power. Money will also circulate in society and spending on basic commodities will be restored.

“The pre-employment card isn’t needed in the current context and it would be better if it’s re-launched later after corona, when things have returned to normal”, he said.

Contacted separately, the executive director of the KedaiKOPI Survey Institute, Kunto Adi Wibowo, also said that Widodo has taken a misstep in responding to the economic impact of the corona virus.

Wibowo questions what President Widodo is aiming to achieve. If the target is reviving the economic conditions at the grassroots, he said, the pre-employment card policy is inappropriate.

“It makes no sense. One million rupiah of training for three months, then after the three months are over they’re still unemployed. Not because they lack skills, but because indeed there aren’t any companies [employing new people], the economy is still sluggish”, said Wibowo when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Thursday.

Wibowo said that it is inappropriate for the government to offer training programs for the ordinary people so that they can get jobs when mass sackings are taking place.

Never mind the issue of the amount of funds being disbursed added Wibowo. Each recipient of the pre-employment card will receive 3.5 million rupiah. One million is allocated for the cost of training while the remainder is given as an indirect incentive over three months.

Yet, according to Wibowo, with this kind of money the government could provide a decent level of direct assistance to ordinary people. With regard to improving the comparativeness of Indonesian workers, he said, this could be done after the pandemic has subsided.

“During the Covid-19 [epidemic], it’s enough just to use direct cash programs, to reduce the effect of Covid-19 at the grassroots”, said the Padjadjaran University communication management lecturer. (dhf/ain)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Pengamat: Korban PHK Butuh Uang Tunai, Bukan Kartu Prakerja”.]