Indonesian Palm Oil Industry Complies with Labor Regulations

JAKARTA — The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) has ensured that the national palm oil industry has complied with all employment regulations, which include the prohibition of never exploiting female workers.

Gapki has even secured a partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and CNV International during the last three years to increase the quality of workers in the palm oil sector.

Gapki Chairman Joko Supriyono said that the palm oil industry plays a significant role in Indonesian economy, particularly in terms of employment as it directly employs 4.45 million workers. The government has even very often mentioned that 17 million people are directly and indirectly employed in the national palm oil industry. Playing such significant role, the palm oil industry has also contributed directly to the national economic growth and to the national labor market.

“But many labor issues in the palm oil sector, particularly child labor or female workers, have become the targets of negative campaigns against the palm oil industry. Those issues have become a concern of Gapki. We ensure that Indonesian palm oil industry will keep its strong commitment to adhere to all regulations on manpower,” Joko said in Jakarta recently.

He noted that the palm oil industry had also continually helped generate the regional economic growth, especially during the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic since early 2020. Amid the ongoing downturn in other economic sectors due to the pandemic, the palm oil industry has managed to keep growing positively and contributed significantly to the national economy. Last year, the palm oil industry contributed a foreign exchange income of US$22 billion to the national economy. As the world’s largest producer of palm oil, Indonesia has also commanded a significant market share at the global market of vegetable oils.

“With big market share and high competitiveness, Indonesian palm oil has become the envy of the global market. It has even led to the launching of negative campaigns by certain groups who continually fire negative issues regarding the palm oil industry, including the labor issues,” Joko said.

There have been international media reports from 2016 until now that the palm oil sector has exploited child workers and female workers. But in fact, all of the reports are contrary to the reality of the palm oil industry. Last year, such media reports went viral. A foreign news agency reported that there had been sexual harassment against female workers in the oil palm plantations despite no reliable evidence provided in the reports. Recently, such labor issue in the palm oil industry was fired again.

“Gapki admits that there is still shortcoming, but we’re striving to continually improve the labor condition so that it is getting better every year. The labor issue is certainly the concern of all sides, including the palm oil stakeholders. Gapki is mainly concerned with the safety and welfare of workers and will keep ensuring that there will be no exploitation of female workers,” Joko asserted.

He noted that Gapki had conducted a research on the female workers at the palm oil sector with the aim to make a mapping of female labor condition and to improve the management of labor employment. Based on the research, Gapki and CNV International published a book on sustainable palm oil management guideline and protection for female workers. The book is expected to become a guideline for palm oil producers to improve governance on palm oil employment.