Wa Ode Darniaty’s eyes nearly pop out of her head when I tell her people can earn upwards of $15 an hour picking fruit in Australia.
“150,000 rupiah an hour? Just for picking fruit? How many hours a day can they work?” She pauses, and reaches quickly into her bag, pulling out her mobile phone. “If I worked eight hours, could I really earn 1.2 million rupiah ($120) a day?”
The amount is enough to pay the rent for Darniaty’s three-bedroom house for two months, but she’s never worked overseas before.
She’s actually never even been outside of Southeast Sulawesi, let alone seen Indonesia’s rapidly growing capital, Jakarta. But this is not unusual — of the estimated 700,000 Indonesian women who migrate to work in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Taiwan every year, almost all have never travelled beyond the capital city of their province.
Although many admit to being scared of what might await them, the lure of financial security is strong. Many Indonesian families are forced to borrow money from banks, friends, relatives, neighbours, and moneylenders just so that they can live from day-to-day. Faced by such crippling debts, Indonesian women are increasingly choosing to become tenaga kerja wanita (literally “female labour”) in foreign countries.
An article of mine on Indonesian female migrant workers was published in New Matilda today. Pretty happy!