Empty houses and jobless maids – Indonesia’s expat exodus gathers pace

JAKARTA: Foreign workers are leaving Indonesia at an increasing rate due to the slump in commodity prices that has forced resource companies to slash jobs at a time when the government has also introduced tighter regulations on expatriates in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

The number of temporary residential permits issued to foreigners, including renewals, has fallen for the past few years to 171,944 in 2015 from 194,162 in 2013. In the first five months of this year, there were 72,399 issued but many of those who provide services to expats say they expect a further drop over the whole of 2016 as they are seeing very few new arrivals.

As a result, rents on upmarket homes in Jakarta have plummeted and enrolment at international schools has fallen.

“The expat drought has been really noticeable in 2016,” said Deborah Minicola, a Jakarta-based technical advisor at international relocation company Allied Pickfords. “This time the expat community has been hit from so many angles.”

The outflow is likely to dent higher-end consumption and drive up unemployment, economists say, as big-spending expats tend to hire multiple workers ranging from housemaids and drivers to gardeners and bodyguards.

Some workers who recently lost their jobs are finding it difficult to get new employment.