Indonesian returning migrant workers to play a significant role in the development of villages

Jakarta – Returning Indonesian migrant workers play a significant role in developing their home villages, but only when they are protected.  Villages also play a vital role in ensuring the end-to-end protection of Indonesian migrant workers, emphasizing the importance of enhanced coordination and strengthened capacity to address the heavy social, economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new joint UN report launched today.

The report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) also indicates that village authorities require more support to boost capacity for ensuring the well-being and livelihoods of returning migrant workers and migrant-sending households.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a large-scale return of Indonesian migrant workers to home villages.  According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about 180,000 Indonesian migrant workers returned through formal channels in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The report was launched virtually with the Minister of Village, Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration, Mr. Abdul Halim Iskandar. 

“"Village development policy is based on a strong foundation called the SDGs Desa (Village SDGs), which is focused on rural development. The work benefits all rural communities without exception and ensures no one is left behind, including migrant workers.",” said Minister Iskandar. 

The study involved a survey of 1,082 villages in eight provinces, identified as some of the key home areas of Indonesian migrant workers.  The survey combined qualitative data and information from government and non-government stakeholders. The study aims to map out the challenges and opportunities to ensure the Government’s priority for the protection, reintegration, and empowerment of Indonesian migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is believed that more on inclusion will ensure gender-responsive and improved protection of migrant workers, particularly at the village level.

Louis Hoffmann, IOM Indonesia’s Chief of Mission, noted that there are several key legislative provisions and programmes that sustain the end-to-end protection of migrant workers in Indonesia.  “What our survey has highlighted, in addition to the substantial needs of returned Indonesian migration workers made vulnerable by the health pandemic, is the importance of strengthening village-level capacities to extend these programmes to migrant workers – both returning and departing – as part of ensuring end-to-end protections and a more effective remedy to the impacts and restrictions of the COVID pandemic.”

UNDP Indonesia Resident Representative, Mr. Norimasa Shimomura said that an effective implementation of the national law which protects the rights of migrant workers is key to addressing their needs. 

“Laws authorizing local governments to bear a duty of care are instrumental to supporting returning migrant workers. However, these laws require effective implementation. Therefore, it is important that local governments are aware of their responsibility and capacity for implementing these laws so as to better protect and empower migrant workers, especially during the pandemic,” he said.

As the Head of the Research and International Affairs Department of SBMI, Dina Nuriyati emphasized the organization’s commitment to further support the implementation of the migrant workers protection law, “SBMI will continue to support the government’s efforts in effectively implementing the law number 18 of 2017, especially through the organizing of migrant worker communities at the village level.”

The study is made possible by the Global IOM-UNDP Seed Funding Initiative signed last year. Indonesia is one of the 11 countries where the collaboration is taking place. 

IOM National Media and Communications Officer, Ariani Soejoeti, 
UNDP Communications Specialist, Tomi Soetjipto,

About IOM 
Established in 1951, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - UN Migration - is the leading inter-governmental organization dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by advancing the understanding of migration issues, assisting governments in meeting the challenges of migration, encouraging social and economic development through migration, and upholding the dignity and well-being of migrants, their families, and their communities. For more information about IOM in Indonesia, visit

About UNDP
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SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities