Fired during COVID, Bali’s low paid now demand double the pay | Business and Economy

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia – Made, an Airbnb host who runs a luxury villa on Bali’s sultry west coast, spent two months looking for a gardener after the last one quit without warning.

“I advertised on Facebook five times, gradually increasing my salary until the fifth time I found someone,” Made, who like many Indonesians call by only one name, told Al Jazeera. “By then I had raised my salary to 60 percent.”

Made’s experience isn’t unique to the popular island resort.

As the tourism industry in Bali bounces back after lifting most of the restrictions due to COVID-19, the labor supply is in short supply.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, more than 1.4 million foreign tourists visited Bali between January and October 2022, compared with just a few dozen in 2021.

Figures for November and December have not been released, but local authorities said last month they planned to welcome up to 1.5 million visitors over the Christmas period.

Nearly half of workers in Bali, where tourism accounts for 60-80% of the economy, report a loss of income in 2020. But for now, employers can’t hire fast enough.

Will Meyrick, a Scottish chef, said: “What we have found is that it is very difficult to find qualified and mid-level employees because after losing their jobs, they return to their villages and set up businesses. small business selling calling cards or something like that. who co-owns several restaurants in Bali, told Al Jazeera.

“They are making the same amount of money with just a few hours of work a day and the government is offering free online business courses. It’s like in the West. Those who work from home want to continue to do so. If you want to get them back, you have to give them at least 50% more than they made in 2019.”

Opportunities outside the hotel

Ina, an executive at a luxury hotel in Yogyakarta, Java, is one of many hotel workers demanding better pay and conditions.

After the Bali hotel she was working at had her salary cut by three-quarters in the first year of the pandemic, Ina found her current job in Yogyakarta with a full salary.

But no, the headhunters are trying to lure her back to Bali.

“Tourism in Bali has bounced back during the holiday season and the G20, so anyone who has laid off staff during the pandemic is trying to reprise those roles,” said Ina, who asked. using a pseudonym, told Al Jazeera.

“Three different hotels in Bali have invited me to work this month. But I don’t even consider them until they pay more.”

Some hotel workers have previously found that they could work better in the gig economy.

Ida Bagus Nuyama, a driver for Indonesian ride-hailing service Gojek, has doubled her monthly income since losing her job as a housekeeper at a mansion in 2020.

Nuyama told Al Jazeera: “Now I earn 4 million rupiah ($257) a month after paying the expenses and the work is not as hard as in the villa. “I just drive around and listen to music all day.”

Job opportunities in the cruise ship industry are an additional headache for employers — and a boon for job seekers.

“We have a severe shortage of chefs in Bali,” Kit Cahill, manager of the Bubble Hotel Bali, told Al Jazeera.

“You advertise, you offer jobs, but they don’t show up because a lot of the quality employees have left to take jobs on cruise ships.”

Kit Cahill leans against a rock wall in a yoga pose with one foot in the sand with a surfboard standing beside her and a medium-sized dog looking into the distance.
Bali hotel managers like Kit Cahill are struggling to find staff as tourism recovers from the pandemic [Courtesy of Ian Neubauer]

Mitchell Anseiwciz, the Australian co-owner of Ohana’s, a beach club and boutique hotel on Nusa Lembongan, a satellite island of Bali, has laid off some employees to switch to a cruise ship. .

“I can’t blame them. It’s a great opportunity to see the world for non-travelers and the cruise ships have done an excellent job of training,” Anseiwciz told Al Jazeera.

Anseiwciz says that while finding and retaining skilled employees has always been a challenge for Nusa Lembongan because of its remote location, his business has mitigated those challenges by becoming “home selected recruitment”.

“We have a reputation for paying wages accurately, on time and for respecting all employee rights such as health and pensions, fair working conditions, holiday pay and sick leave,” he said.

For ordinary workers, the incentives of the tourism industry include wages that are much higher than they can earn.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Norwegian can pay unskilled staff $16,000-20,000 a year – a sizable sum in Bali, where gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is less than $5,000. . With only a marginal cost of living, crew members can often save a large portion of their income.

I Made Alit Mertyasa, a former guide with a Bali-based motorcycle tour company who now works as a housekeeping staff for the Carnival Sunrise cruise ship, told Al Jazeera: “In a cruise, income is much higher.

Ni Luh Putu Rustini holds a child in her lap.
Nanny Ni Luh Putu Rustini has doubled her salary since the pandemic [Courtesy of Ian Neubauer]

Back in Bali, Ni Luh Putu Rustini, a freelance nanny who has doubled her salary since the pandemic, says bosses no longer hope to retain employees by offering a fluctuating, minimum wage. from 2.4 million to 2.9 million rupiah ($154 – $186). ) per month depending on the county.

Rustini told Al Jazeera: “During a pandemic, people will work for money or just for food.

“But now you have to give 3.2 million rupiah [$206] every month even find people to work and 5 to 6 million rupiah [$321-$386] every month to keep them. Now it’s easy to find a job, so people are no longer satisfied with the low salary they used to be.”

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