Webinar on “The Work Creation (Omnibus) Law in Indonesia: What Does its Journey Tell Us About Indonesian Politics”

In this webinar, Dr Max Lane discussed the main contents and ideological thrust of the 2020 Work Creation Law (UU Cipta Kerja) and analysed the opposition campaigns undertaken against the Bill that were spearheaded by Indonesian trade unions and environmental and other civil society groups.


Monday, 29 March 2021 – The Indonesia Studies Programme organized a webinar on “The Work Creation (Omnibus) Law in Indonesia: What Does its Journey Tell Us About Indonesian Politics” on Monday, delivered by Dr Max Lane, ISEAS Visiting Senior Fellow. Dr Hui Yew-Foong moderated this session.

Dr Max Lane
Dr Max Lane observed that the Law has depleted labour protection and weakened environmental regulatory schemes in Indonesia. Dr Hui Yew-Foong moderated the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Lane started by explaining the chronology of the Worker Creation Law. The first draft of the Bill was passed by the majority of the parliament only eight months after its proposal by the government in February 2020. The Bill was strongly supported by employers and business groups. However, labour unions and environmental and other civil society groups opposed different parts of the Bill. While bigger trade unions criticized the Bill and lobbied the government to drop it, the smaller ones led street protest campaigns. Despite the controversies, President Jokowi signed the Bill in November 2020. The Bill-turned-Law is over 1000 pages long and consists of 15 chapters and 174 articles, including revisions on 11 clusters involving 73 existing laws. Hence it was being described as an Omnibus Law – all issues apart from taxes were placed in one piece of legislation.

Laying out the philosophical linearity between the Law’s passages and Jokowi’s general philosophy, Dr Lane highlighted that the academic explanation (naskah akademik) tabled by the government alongside the bill depicts employment creation as an ultimate long-term goal to achieve an average economic growth of 5.7 per cent, so that in 2045 Indonesia is predicted to become a developed country with a sustainable economy. Dr Lane doubted that the government would be able to reach this target because of three reasons: weak competitiveness, slow economic growth, and uneven growth between regions. He mentioned that the indicator of Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in the Law signals weak competitiveness. With regards to the areas of controversy, Dr Lane said that the Law has depleted labour protection, weakened environmental regulatory schemes, and lastly, showed the homogenous nature of the post-New Order Indonesian elite and their close linkage to business interests through the universal support for the Law within parliament.

Finally, Dr Lane discussed four basic sources of opposition to the Omnibus Law, including trade unions, environmental groups, democratic rights groups, and university students. He argued that the opposition sectors have been exposed as small and weak, especially the environmental groups and other civil society organizations that have no mobilizational membership. Although not all unions opposed the other provisions of the bill, such as those related to the environment, Dr Lane argued that their campaign contours failed due to divided streams of unionism in Indonesia.

The webinar concluded with a Q&A session that discussed issues ranging from the implementation of the law in Indonesia, the political expression of opposition groups, the opportunity to open the labour market for foreign workers, as well as the prospect of green investment in the country. The webinar attracted 40 participants from Singapore and abroad.

Over 40 participants attended the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)