Relief for Millions of Honorary Workers as the Indonesian Government Halts Its Removal Plans

Millions of honorary workers in Indonesia can now breathe a sigh of relief as the government has abandoned its plans to eliminate their jobs. Initially, the deadline for the removal of honorary workers was set for November 28, 2023, as stated in Circular Letter (SE) from the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB) Number B/185/M.SM.02.03/2022. However, due to various considerations, the government ultimately canceled the removal of honorary workers this year. One of the primary reasons for this decision was to prevent mass layoffs affecting around 2.3 million honorary workers within government ministries and agencies.

The Circular Letter issued in 2022 was a follow-up to Government Regulation (PP) Number 49 of 2018 regarding the management of government employees with employment agreements. This regulation contained various provisions related to honorary workers, stipulating that Public Service Workers (PPPK) are prohibited from appointing non-civil servant employees to fill civil servant positions. This rule also applies to other officials in government institutions who appoint non-civil servant employees, and those found in violation are subject to legal sanctions.

Furthermore, non-civil servant employees can become PPPK after a maximum period of five years, provided they meet the requirements outlined in government regulations. The decision to abandon the removal of honorary workers was driven by the potential adverse impact it would have on public services and the economy.

Abdullah Azwar Anas, the Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform (PAN-RB), stated that the government is currently exploring new formulas to ensure that honorary workers can continue working and earning income. One of these approaches is outlined in Circular Letter Number B/1527/M.SM.01.00/2023, dated July 25, 2023. This circular letter encourages all Human Resources Development Officials (PPK) in central and regional institutions to take steps regarding the status and position of former THK-2 workers and non-civil servant employees.

The circular letter instructs PPKs to allocate budgets for non-civil servant workers listed in the National Civil Service Agency (BKN) database without reducing their current incomes. It also strictly prohibits PPKs and other officials from appointing non-civil servants and/or non-PPPK employees to fill civil servant positions or other non-civil servant roles.

In addition, the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform has made it clear that filling civil servant positions in government institutions should be done in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations. This means that honorary workers will no longer be considered for civil servant positions.

This circular letter provides a glimmer of hope for non-civil servant workers, including former THK-2 workers. It addresses the uncertainty surrounding their status and positions, particularly after the government initially announced plans to remove non-civil servant workers from the bureaucracy.

Abdullah Azwar Anas explained that the ongoing drafting of the Civil Servant Law (RUU ASN) is expected to provide a solution for honorary workers. The principles guiding this solution include avoiding mass layoffs, maintaining current income levels, and ensuring that honorary workers can continue working.

Piter Abdullah, the Executive Director of the Segara Research Institute, acknowledged that the government faces significant challenges in eliminating honorary workers. The complexity of Indonesia’s bureaucracy is a major hurdle in this regard. While there are already a substantial number of civil servants, there is a continuous need for honorary workers to fill gaps in the workforce. However, appointing more honorary workers would increase the burden on the state budget.

Piter suggested that a more effective approach would involve identifying the actual need for civil servants in accordance with the bureaucratic reform plan and then selecting candidates who meet the necessary criteria. While this approach is challenging, it is essential to ensure the efficiency and sustainability of the civil service.

Nailul Huda, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), emphasized that the government’s slow progress in resolving the honorary worker issue could have detrimental effects on these workers. The longer the uncertainty about their employment status persists, the more precarious their future becomes.

Removing honorary workers without a well-thought-out plan could lead to increased poverty and unemployment. Huda stressed the importance of developing a comprehensive strategy to address the issue and suggested that ministries and agencies encourage honorary workers to take the civil service exam as a means of improving their job security.

The decision to halt the removal of honorary workers in Indonesia reflects the government’s recognition of the complex challenges posed by the country’s bureaucratic system. While there is no easy solution to this issue, the government’s new approach, as outlined in Circular Letter Number B/1527/M.SM.01.00/2023, provides a temporary reprieve for millions of non-civil servant workers.

Moving forward, it is essential for the government to develop a long-term plan for reducing the number of honorary workers and improving the efficiency of the civil service. This may involve voluntary resignations, collaboration with the private sector to absorb qualified honorary workers, and a gradual reduction in the allocation of budgets for hiring new honorary workers. Ultimately, finding a balanced solution that ensures job security for honorary workers while streamlining the bureaucracy is a complex but necessary task for the Indonesian government.