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Demand for low wages in Bali doubles wages as tourists roar and economy

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia – Airbnb host Made, who manages a luxury villa on Bali’s humid west coast, spent two months looking for a gardener after the last one left without notice.

“I put out five ads on Facebook and gradually increased my salary until I found someone the fifth time,” Made, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, told Al Jazeera. By then, I had increased my salary by 60%.”

Made’s experience is anything but unique at a popular island resort.

Workers are in short supply as Bali tourism rebounds after most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

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 arrivals in 2021.

No figures have been released for November and December, but local officials said last month they were planning up to 1.5 million arrivals over the Christmas period.

In Bali, where tourism accounts for 60-80% of the economy, nearly half of workers reported losing their income in 2020.

“After losing their jobs, they returned to their villages and set up small businesses selling phone cards and such, so finding qualified mid-career staff proved to be very difficult,” said the Scottish chef. says Will Meyrick of He co-owns several restaurants in Bali, he told Al Jazeera.

“They are making the same amount of money working just a few hours a day, and the government is offering free online business courses, just like in the West. If we want them back, we need to give them at least 50% more than they were making in 2019.”

Non-Hospitality Opportunities

An executive at a luxury hotel in Yogyakarta, Java, Ina is one of many hospitality workers seeking better wages and conditions.

After the Bali hotel where she worked cut wages by three-quarters in the first year of the pandemic, Ina found her current job in Yogyakarta on full pay.

But now the headhunter wants her back in Bali.

“Tourism in Bali has rebounded for the holiday season and the G20, so those who laid off staff during the pandemic are trying to fill their roles again,” said Ina, who asked to use a pseudonym. told Jazeera.

“This month I have received job offers from three hotels in Bali. But I won’t even consider them until they offer more wages.”

Some former hospitality workers have found they can do a better job in the gig economy.

Ida Bagus Nuyama, a driver for Indonesian ride-hailing service Gojek, has doubled his monthly income since losing his job as a vacation home maid in 2020.

“I now earn 4 million rupiah ($257) a month by paying expenses. It’s not as hard a job as a villa,” Nuyama told Al Jazeera. “I drive all day and listen to music.”

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

“There is a huge shortage of chefs in Bali,” Kit Cahill, manager of Bubble Hotel Bali, told Al Jazeera.

“We advertise, we offer jobs, but they don’t show up because many quality staff left to get jobs on cruise ships.”

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

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

“You can’t blame them. It’s a great opportunity to see the world for people who wouldn’t travel otherwise, and cruise ships do great training,” Ansei Uchisz told Al Jazeera.

Anseiwciz said that due to Lembongan’s remote location, finding and retaining skilled staff has always been a challenge, but his business alleviates these challenges by becoming the “employer of choice.” doing.

“We have a reputation for making accurate and timely payments and respecting all employee rights such as health insurance and pensions, fair working conditions, holiday benefits and sick leave,” he said. I was.

For non-regular workers, incentives in the cruise industry include salaries that are much higher than they could otherwise earn.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Norwegian can pay $16,000 to $20,000 a year for unskilled staff. That’s a lot for Bali, where the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is just under her $5,000. With a negligible cost of living, the crew typically saves the majority of their income.

“On a cruise ship, the income is much better,” said I Made Alit Mertyasa, a former guide for a Bali-based motorcycle tour company who now works as a housekeeping attendant on the Carnival Sunrise cruise ship, said Al Jazeera. told to

Ni ru putu rustini with a child on her lap.
Nanny Ni Luh Putu Rustini’s fees have doubled since the pandemic [Courtesy of Ian Neubauer]

Back in Bali, freelance nanny Ni Luh Putu Rustini, who has doubled her rates since the pandemic, is offering minimum wages ranging from 2.4 million to 2.9 million rupiah ($154 to $186). Employers said they could no longer hope to retain staff. ) varies by region.

“During the pandemic, people were only working for money or food,” Rustini told Al Jazeera.

“But now you have to provide 3.2 million rupiah. [$206] 5-6 million rupiah per month to find someone to work [$321-$386] Monthly to maintain them. It’s so easy to find a job now that people aren’t as satisfied with low salaries as they used to be. ”

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