Indonesian Women as Export Commodity: Notes from Tanjung Pinang

29 November 2016

In Indonesia, the plight of TKW (Tenaga Kerja Wanita - the common term for women migrant workers) has been a subject of public controversy for decades. Academic accounts of the conditions of Indonesian migrant domestic workers tend to resonate with local public perceptions. Authors such as Bethan (1993) and Robinson (2000a, 2000b) and Krisnawaty (1997) focus predominantly on the threats and privations facing women working abroad as domestic help - in Saudi Arabia in particular - and the shortcomings of official labour migration agencies. Yet, while conditions in receiving countries and the experiences of women in the barracks of registered labour export companies in Jakarta are the subject of many books and articles, the conditions experienced by women recruited by illegal agents are relatively little researched. While in Tanjung Pinang recently I conducted interviews with an illegal migration agent, his wife, and five women currently awaiting positions in Malaysia. The results of those interviews are the subject of this research note.