President Joko Widodo inaugurates the state worker pension fund, BPJS Ketenagakerjaan, on Wednesday. (Antara Photo/Idhad Zakaria)

Anger and Protests as Government Blindsides Public With New Pension Restriction

JULY 02, 2015

Jakarta. Thousands of Indonesians have taken to the Internet and the streets in protest at a new government regulation requiring employees and former employees to wait until retirement age to withdraw their pension funds.

An online petition challenging the government’s decision to revise the longstanding regulation on the state-pension fund withdrawal system was launched on and within less than two days garnered nearly 60,000 signatures.

The petition was initiated by Gilang Mahardika, a Yogyakarta resident who resigned from his job after working for five years.

Gilang had planned to start his own business with his pension fund, deducted from his monthly salary and managed by the Social Security Administration Body for Employment, or BPJS Ketenagakerjaan, which used to be known as Jamsostek.

Gilang, who resigned in May this year, went to a BPJS Ketenagakerjaan office to withdraw his funds only to be told that the rules had changed since the institution began full operations on Wednesday under a new regulation.

“My happiness to finally get the money I planned to use for business ended with a bitter pill,” Gilang wrote.

An official at the BPJS office told him that only those who have been paying into the pension fund for at least 10 years would be allowed to withdraw – and even then, the withdrawal is capped at 10 percent of the total fund. The full fund can only been withdrawn once the policy holder turns 56 years old.

The life expectancy in Indonesia is 70 years.

Previous rules governing the Jamsostek scheme stipulated that the full fund could be withdrawn after five years of paying into the scheme.

Gilang’s online protest spread quickly, with thousands of social media users echoing their disappointment on Facebook and Twitter, and demanding the government rescind the new regulation.

Angry protesters claimed the government was effectively robbing the public with the revised rules.

Despite the outcry, though, Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri insisted that the new regulation was in line with prevailing laws.

“There’s no such thing [as] the government taking advantage of the people. This is all about management,” he said on Thursday.

“After 10 years they will be allowed to access 10 percent of funds for miscellaneous necessities and an additional 30 percent for housing.”

BPJS Ketenagakerjaan president director Elvyn Masassya said the new regulation was more in line with the scheme’s intended purpose to provide a pension fund than the previous setup under Jamsostek.

“A pension fund is meant for people who have retired. A 10-year wait is more ideal,” he said on Thursday as quoted by CNN Indonesia. (Yes, Elvyn is a man.) “The funds are still there and can be claimed in full when a worker is 56 years old.”

Democratic Party legislator Dede Yusuf, who chairs the House of Representatives’ oversight commission in welfare, said the new regulation was needed to prevent BPJS Ketenagakerjaan from becoming cash-strapped like its health insurer counterpart, BPJS Kesehatan.

While disgruntled citizens in Jakarta opted to raise a ruckus online, workers in the industrial island of Batam, in the Riau Islands province, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the new regulation, reported.

Some 200 workers marched on the local BPJS Ketenagakerjaan office demanding to meet with officials there. A scuffle ensued when the workers were denied entry into the office.

The local BPJS office eventually agreed to postpone the implementation of the new regulation until after the Idul Fitri celebration which falls on July 17.

There was a similar protest in Bogor, just south of the capital, where hundreds of BPJS Ketenagakerjaan policy holders protested what they denounced as the government’s negligence in informing them about the drastic change in policy.

The Bogor office said there was nothing it could do to change the rules but to forward the people’s grievances to the BPJS Ketenagakerjaan head office in Jakarta.

Andy Sinaga, of the workers’ rights advocacy group Labor Institute Indonesia, said the regulation went against the spirit of Indonesia’s universal social welfare scheme, which is supposed to work for the benefit of the people.

Andy also said that labor unions and workers’ groups had never been consulted during the drafting of the new regulation. The government, he added, had showed itself to be insensitive toward the impact that Indonesia’s economic slowdown was having on the workforce, including mass layoffs in various industries.

“Workers need cash to survive. With Idul Fitri just days away, there’s an extra need for cash,” Andy said as quoted by Rakyat Merdeka Online.

“President Jokowi must act and revoke this one-sided decision because it victimizes the participants of BPJS Ketenagakerjaan themselves.”