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Foreign Workers May Soon Have to Demonstrate Fluency in Indonesian to Obtain Immigration and Working Permits.

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A page-one story in the Jakarta Post last week suggests that steps are underway that will soon make it cumpulsory for all foreigners wishing to work in Indonesia to demonstrate proficiency in Indonesian language.

Under increasing pressure from the World Trade Organization to liberalize access to Indonesian labor markets for citizens of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by 2006, and for other nations by 2008, the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Fahmi Idris, told the press that an agency empowered by the manpower department would test and certify foreign worker's proficiency in the Indonesian language.

Those defending the controversial plan argue that by ensuring that foreigners working in Indonesia have a fluency in the national language efforts to train and upgrade Indonesian workers will be assisted.

In response to an outcry from foreign investment circles following the announcement of the new language requirement, the Chairman of the National Commission for Standardization of Prefessions (DNSP), Mudjiman, made efforts to assure all concerned that Indonesia would remain open to foreign workers and students. Mudjiman, who is also the Director General of Labor Productivity at the Manpower Ministry, said foreigners would still be allowed to work and study in Indonesia providing their presence provides a "mutual benefit for the country and the foreigners themselves."

According to the Jakarta Post article, the new language requirement will become effective in 2006 with the concept and form of the testing procedure still under consideration.

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