Labor Day in Indonesia

It was in 1920 when the people in Indonesia started to honour and commemorate Labor Day. However, the country’s New Order regime made by President Suharto banned it. The reason for this was that the government feared to build a relationship between communism and labour. When he was president, he banned any protest against his decision to not honour Labor Day.

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It was only in 1998 when they began to honour Labor Day again. After a couple of years, they had a stronger and larger government.

Labour became an Indonesia public holiday in 2013 when President Yudhoyono declared it. On this day, the general population does not have work and school. Most businesses on Labor Day are closed.

The official Labor Day is May 1, and it is a day when workers can spend time with their loved ones. Traditionally, there are thousands of workers who go to the streets to voice out their demands about having better income and the government to have more supportive policies.

Learn more about Labour Day in Indonesia as you read more.


What is the Labor Day in Indonesia All About?

Labor Day is celebrated in the majority of countries around the world. It was in the 20th century when the Soviet Union officially endorsed it. Labor Day was also celebrated as International Solidarity of workers, especially in the communist countries in the Cold War era. There were usually large parades of the military using the most modern weaponry that was being shown as a sign of the common people’s support to the government.

President Sukarno was the patriot of Indonesia who supported the political change. A lot of people believe that he was ousted because he backed socialist policies such as honouring Labor Day.

Due to his support of socialist policies during the Cold War, he was opposed by the USA. They favoured Suharto who was against communism to prevent Sukarno from implementing socialism in Indonesia. The CIA helped Suharto establish a New Order which prevented public demonstrations, rallies, and labour rights movements from taking place as they were banned.

International Labor Day celebrations in Indonesia were illegal because of this. Anyone who participated went to prison, which kept Indonesians from voicing out their concerns. It was in 1998 when the policies of Suharto were no longer recognized.

It was not until 2013 when Labor Day was established as a public holiday. Their first formal celebration of Labor Day was on May 1, 2014.

The Workers’ March is the most significant event in Indonesia during Labor Day. Large crowds march to the Presidential Palace to voice out their concerns. You will see banners, flags, signages, etc.


How to Celebrate Labor Day in Indonesia and The Things You Can Do

One of the issues they are fighting for is the low minimum wages they receive. They are protesting the Government Regulation no. 78/2015 on wages which were issued in 2015. Part of it was to put a limit on the growth of minimum wage. In recent years before the regulation, the minimum wage growth became rapid in some provinces. It made the investment climate unattractive, and some companies decided to relocate their plants in other South Asian countries to pay lower wages. Relocation caused many jobs to be lost.

The rise of minimum wages in Indonesia became a huge concern for investors, and this made them financially uncertain. That is why they started to limit minimum wage growth again.


How Labor Day in Indonesia is Celebrated

When it is Labor Day, there are thousands of workers that come from different local labour unions that gather in Central Jakarta.

The workers are mostly from factories located in the outskirts of Jakarta. They assemble at the National Monument, where their march starts.

There are roadblocks to show where their route is, and there are thousands of police officers that stop workers from reading the palace.

The workers will shout their demands to improve their working conditions, increase wages, open more jobs, and put an end to the pedestrian bridge. Some pedestrians even try to Protesters argued that the Presidential Regulation No. 20/2018 conflicts the 1945 constitution of the country, and it is against what Indonesian people aspire for. At the same time, protesters are also against the 2016 presidential regulation, which is not to require a visa from citizens of different countries if they want to enter Indonesia. This regulation is also favourable to foreigners who try to come and work in Indonesia with no proper documents. This is a problem, and there has been an increase in illegal unskilled workers from different countries in Indonesia.


Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Labor Day in Indonesia

During Labor Day, Indonesians usually gather in Jakarta to join the Workers’ March towards the Presidential Palace. Hundreds of thousands of workers hold signs, banners, and different protest materials to show everyone what they are concerned about. Those who work in the same company or factory sometimes choose to wear their uniform so that everyone knows where they work. Aside from that, you will hear them protesting about their low minimum wage, or it never increases.

If you are part of the workforce, you can choose to join the march or not because it is not always safe to join rallies. Some policemen try to stop the protesters from reaching the Presidential Palace, and sometimes it can get violent, especially if there is resistance.

Labor Day in Indonesia can be spent for resting or visiting loved ones or for protesting. The people now have a choice of what to do on this day.


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