The debate in Indonesia on the fourth industrial revolution is a pressing concern at all levels of government and civil society. While some fear rising unemployment and social disruption, the government has promised to make the country a regional digital hub and create new employment opportunities.
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been working closely with local partners to make the most of the opportunities and illustrate pathways for a fair transition. At a conference in April 2017, FES invited German and other international government, enterprise and labour representatives to share their experience of digital transformation, and how to make it work for the workers.
The concept of Work 4.0 refers to the widespread automation and digitalization of the economy and the labour market, and its implications for workers. There is much debate on the matter. “All are agreed that irreversible, transformative change is coming, but beyond that opinions are divided,” said Resident Director Sergio Grassi.
The topic of automation and digitalization of the economy goes to the heart of the competencies and convictions of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Some have expressed concern, even fear, of an impending digital winter, with unemployment running rampant as hard-working employees are made obsolete by machines, robots and artificial intelligence. Others see an opportunity for digital reinvention, with Indonesia leapfrogging the industrial stage of development to emerge as a regional hub for digital economic activity.
This topic goes to the heart of the competencies and convictions of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. “Germany has some experience of the topic, with the multi-stakeholder approach of the White Paper on Work 4.0," Grassi said. The 2017 paper, produced by the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, tackles the future of work, life-long learning, labour and healthcare, digitalization and other related questions (link). It was drafted in consultation with social partners, associations, business and academia, as well as the public.
"The process provided some valuable lessons," he said. “And in April 2017 we had the opportunity to share some of these insights during a two-day conference titled Labour 4.0—the Digital Economy and its Implications for Employment.”
The event brought together employers, workers and policy makers from Indonesia, Germany and beyond as well as international organizations, for a constructive discussion on how to move forwards while preserving the interests of all parties involved. “It was a good opportunity for FES to cement our working relationship with the Ministry of Manpower, and to encourage the dialogue between social partners,” Grassi said.
Representatives of the German metalworkers’ union IGMetall and other sectors related their own experience of safeguarding workers’ rights during technological upheaval. There was a particularly emphatic exchange over the employment policy of transport-sharing app Go-Jek.
The company, which signed up 400,000 drivers within three years, is a prominent example of how the tech-based enterprises are already changing the labour market. Worker representatives at the Labour 4.0 conference commented that they contribute to the company as employees but are defined as “partners” of the parent company.
However, the event gave them the opportunity to confront company representatives with their perceptions, and also to hear the executives’ side of the story: namely, that Go-Jek does not have the resources to establish a formal employers-employee relationship. In fact, they said, their business model and the availability of this flexible work actually depends on its informal status.
“With both sides able to speak, the forum at least allowed each to hear and acknowledge the challenges and constraints faced by the other, even if no definite long-term solution was finalized,” Grassi said.
FES first established a base in the country in 1968 and has also been working in other areas. The majority-Muslim but multi-religious country spans thousands of islands and more than 700 languages. Unity in diversity at a national level is supposedly cemented according to the principles of Pancasila, a motto that approximates to inclusion amid diversity. However, a recent increase in polarized identity politics—a trend that can be observed globally - has raised concerns that tolerance in Indonesia is under threat.
With NGO partner PSIK, FES published a book in 2017 on living examples of tolerance across communities in Indonesia, titled Indonesia’s Emerald Chain of Tolerance. This was around the time of the backlash against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, during his unsuccessful election campaign for governor of Jakarta. Ahok was quoted that the Koran might be used to discourage Muslims from voting for an ethnic Chinese such as himself. Charging that Ahok had insulted Islam, conservative Islamic religious scholars (Ulama), with the support of Islamic organizations, were able to mobilize about 500,000 people on December 2, 2016, for the largest street demonstration in Indonesian history.
FES continues to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. The leader of the team that put together a book on tolerance success stories, Yudi Latif, has worked at ministry level in the presidential palace. Yudi has been advocating a modern, grass-roots Pancasila, one which works on grass-roots examples and seeks ground-level feedback.
One showcase example to illustrate this, Grassi said, was a group of woman paediatricians who approached FES, asking how they could help address intolerance, and promote inclusion and diversity in civil society. “It was encouraging to see this group of professionals, who may not have been so interested in politics before, now seeing the possibility for civil society to make an impact.”
FES has also been working with local partners on the growth of the country’s cities. Indonesia is seeing rapid urbanization, and urban planning in many cities has focused on the principle of the smart city. Yet the Smart City concept primarily pleases technology and construction interests as well as some other private investors. By contrast, data protection and—especially—the social aspects of urban development are being put on the back burner as the city’s social functions are de-emphasized.
Hence FES promotes the questioning of the established top-down mode of central planning in favour of a more participatory, stakeholder-driven approach.
“We want to demystify the Singapore model,” Grassi said, referring to the concept widely held throughout South-East Asia that the high-tech city-state is the best regional example of development. The structures of government, land and real estate ownership do not apply to Indonesia, he explained. Top-down infrastructure developments in Jakarta’s Ahok era resulted in the eviction of more than 16,000 mostly poor residents, with little consultation or compensation.
Many urban Jakartans remain indifferent to the need for inclusive governance in their city – Artanti Wardhani (FES)
FES instead promotes a Social City approach to urban development, Grassi said. “This is a holistic and collaborative urban development concept that strives for affordable housing, affordable mobility and civil participation, while it intends to avoid social and cultural segregation. It promotes bringing citizens and residents back into the governance of city-making.”
“The response we get from partners and stakeholders is very positive,” said Programme Officer Artanti Wardhani, known as Dhani. She said the Social City programme has also helped her to better understand the perspective of some Jakarta residents.
“I grew up in Jakarta, and I was sometimes surprised by how critical our partners could be against the city government during Ahok’s term,” she said. “But now I understand how all the projects driven by technology companies and misguided concepts of modernity were not necessarily inclusive and pro-poor. After meeting with communities in the affected kampongs [urban sub-district], I came to understand the impact of the evictions.”
Many urban Jakartans remain indifferent to the need for inclusive governance in their city, she said. “Metropolitan people live in their own, middle-class big-city bubble. FES can help connect them with people of different social strata and other communities on their doorstep.”
“This for me is what FES does—connecting people.”
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It is high time to act and re-imagine our digital future in Asia.
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