Governance and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Malaysia

A Study on Policy and Innovation Network


Protecting Indonesian migrant workers (IMWs) in Malaysia is a matter of great significance due to Indonesia's status as one of the primary source countries for migrant workers to Malaysia. Consequently, it necessitates the implementation of comprehensive governance measures by both nations. This paper aims to analyze the joint endeavors and collaborative frameworks established between governments of Indonesia and Malaysia. Additionally, it seeks to identify the network of policies and innovations enacted in both countries related to the protection and regulation of migrant workers. This research was enhanced through the utilization of NVivo qualitative analysis software. This article shows that efforts to protect IMWs in Malaysia involve many government institutions in both countries, especially at ministerial and departmental levels. The policies established between the two countries are also able to support the success of migrant protection, especially with the agreement between the two countries in the form of signing a Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU). This MoU gave birth to innovation in digital-based migrant worker protection services, namely a "one channel system" as the only official mechanism for recruiting workers. However, at the implementation stage, this innovation has not gone well and necessitated a sincere effort from both countries in implementing it, especially Malaysia as the destination country.


Keywords: Indonesian Migrant Workers, Policy Network, Innovation, Governance


Adams, Douglas, “Collaborative governance and collaborative governance regimes” (2015) Collab Gov regimes 14–38.

Agunias, Dovelyn Rannveig, “What we know about regulating the recruitment of migrant workers” (2013) 6 Policy Br 1–11.

Ahmad, Daniel, “Indonesia Sends Migrant Workers to Malaysia Again”, (2022), online: .

Alavi, Rokiah & A Ramadan, “Narrowing development gaps in ASEAN” (2008) 29:1 J Econ Coop 29–60.

Ali, Amjad et al, “Renewable portfolio standard development assessment in the kingdom of saudi arabia from the perspective of policy networks theory” (2021) 9:7 Processes 1123.

Aliyu, Kehinde Adekunie & Jamaludin Mustaffa, “Prison Correctional Rehabilitation Programme for the Empowerment of Inmates in Nigeria” (2022) 3:1 Journal of Contemporary Governance Public Policy 21–30, online: .

Aminuddin, M, Comparative Study on Laws and Policies in the Management of Migrant Workers in ASEAN (E-READI, 2020).

Anaf, Aswatini et al, “Indonesian Migrant Workers: The Migration Process and Vulnerability to COVID-19” (2022) J Environ Public Health.

Aqil, A Muh Ibnu, “RI, Malaysia to trial unified domestic worker recruitment system”, (2022), online: Jakarta Post .

Arisman, Arisman & Ratnawati Kusuma Jaya, “Labour migration in ASEAN: Indonesian migrant workers in Johor Bahru, Malaysia” (2021) 10:1 Asian Educ Dev Stud 27–39.

Arpangi, “Legal Protection of Indonesian Labor in Management of Household Overseas” (2020) 6:3 J Pembaharuan Huk.

Arwin, Muhammad Asphian & Aktieva Tri Tjitrawati, “Harmonization of Protection Principles of Migran Workers’ Right To Health in the Effort of Asean Universal Health Coverage Implementation” (2018) 18:1 J Din Huk 78.

Aziz, Saidatul Nadia Abd, Salawati Mat Basir & Moganasundari Mahalingam, “Job Termination and Social Security of Migrant Workers in Malaysia During Covid-19 Pandemic” (2022) 9:3 Padjadjaran J Ilmu Huk 297–322.

Aziz, Saidatul Nadia Abdul & Salawati Mat Basir, “Protection of Migrant Workers under the ICMW: Incompatibility with Malaysian Laws and Position in ASEAN” (2021) 7:3 Hasanuddin Law Rev 150–168.

Blom-Hansen, Jens, “A ‘New Institutional’ Perspective on Policy Networks” (1997) 75:4 Public Adm 669–693.

Borrás, Susana & Charles Edquist, “The choice of innovation policy instruments” (2013) 80:8 Technol Forecast Soc Change 1513–1522.

BP2MI, “Temui Kepala BP2MI, Perwakilan Malaysia Bahas Isu Pelindungan dan Kesejahteraan PMI”, (2022), online: .

Chin, Low Choo, “Migrant Labour Recruitment Reform in Malaysia: Towards Ethical and Zero-Cost Migration” (2020) 10:2 Otoritas J Ilmu Pemerintah 142–164.

Damanpour, Fariborz & Marguerite Schneider, “Characteristics of innovation and innovation adoption in public organizations: Assessing the role of managers” (2010) 20:1 J Public Adm Res Theory 259.

Devadason, Evelyn Shyamala & Chan Wai Meng, “Policies and Laws Regulating Migrant Workers in Malaysia: A Critical Appraisal” (2014) 44:1 J Contemp Asia 19–35.

Edler, Jakob & Jan Fagerberg, “Innovation policy: what, why, and how” (2017) 33:1 Oxford Rev Econ Policy 2–23.

ElDidi, Hagar et al, “Reducing vulnerability to forced labour and trafficking of women migrant workers from South- to West-Asia” (2023) 33:2 Dev Pract 156–167.

Emerson, Kirk & Tina Nabatchi, Collaborative governance regimes (Georgetown University Press, 2015).

Enroth, Henrik, “Policy network theory” (2011) SAGE Handb Gov 19–35.

Eriyanti, Linda Dwi, Muhammad Hadi Makmur & Diah Ayu Intansari, “Indonesia’s Political Position on the Protection Policy of Migrant Workers in ASEAN” (2022) 26:1 J Ilmu Sos dan Ilmu Polit 33.

Fatmasiwi, Laras Ningrum, “Public Policy Advocacy Process on the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers conducted by Institute for Education Development, Social, Religious, and Cultural Studies (INFEST)” (2019) 2:1 IJISH (International J Islam Stud Humanit 32–49.

Firmansyah, Asep & Nabil Ihsan, “RI-Malaysia finalise MoU on Protecting of Migrant Domestic Workers”, (2022), online: antaranews .

Flambonita, S, V Novianti & A Febriansyah, “Preventive Protection for Indonesian Migrant Workers as Part of an Effort to Prevent Human Trafficking in Johor Bahru Malaysia” (2022) J La Soc.

Hamid, Zuraini Ab, Siti Fazilah Abdul Shukor & Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed, “Rights of Migrant Workers under Malaysian Employment Law” (2018) 11:2 J East Asia Int Law 359–360.

Hartono, Darminto, “Legal Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers: International Law, National Regulations and Contemporary Problems” (2021) 10 Int J Criminol Sociol 859–865.

Hugo, Graeme, “Best practice in temporary labour migration for development: A perspective from Asia and the Pacific” (2009) 47:5 Int Migr 23–74.

ILO, Review of labour migration policy in Malaysia, by ILO (Bangkok: ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 2016).

Irawan, Astriyani, Arman Anwar & Dyah Ridhul Airin Daties, “Kekuatan Hukum Memorandum of Understanding Bagi Perlindungan Pekerja Migran Indonesia” (2023) 1:1 Pattimura Law Study Rev 10–12.

Izziyana, Wafda Vivid et al, “Legal protection of health rights for Indonesian migrant workers abroad” (2019) 10:6 Indian J Public Heal Res Dev 764–768.

Katriana, “RI, Malaysia discuss steps to improve protection for migrant workers”, (2023), online: antaranews .

Kaur, Amarjit, “Managing labour migration in Malaysia: Guest worker programs and the regularisation of irregular labour migrants as a policy instrument” (2014) 38:3 Asian Stud Rev 345–366.

Khalid, Hasbuddin & Ade Savirah, “Legal Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers” (2022) 1:2 Golden Ratio Law Soc Policy Rev 61–69.

Loganathan, Tharani, Zhie X Chan & Nicola S Pocock, “Healthcare financing and social protection policies for migrant workers in Malaysia” (2020) 15:12 PLoS One.

Low, Choo Chin, “Legal reforms in protecting migrant workers’ welfare in Malaysia: Labor law and social security” (2021) 14:1 Adv Southeast Asian Stud 59–80.

———, “Migtech, fintech and fair migration in Malaysia: addressing the protection gap between migrant rights and labour policies” (2023) 44:5 Third World Q 872–891.

Maksum, Ali, “Indonesian post-migrant workers: A challenging problem for human security” (2021) 4:1 Soc Sci Humanit Open.

Malahayati, Malahayati, “Legal Protection on Indonesian Domestic Workers in Malaysia : From Actors ’ Legal Protection on Indonesian Domestic Workers in Malaysia : From Actors ’ View” (2017) 43:July JL Pol’y Glob 75.

Mazzucato, Mariana, “Mission-oriented innovation policies: challenges and opportunities” (2018) 27:5 Ind Corp Chang 803–815.

Mediana, “Lindungi Pekerja Migran Indonesia di Malaysia”, (2023), online: .

Mustajab, Ridhwan, “Ada 1.987 Pengaduan Pekerja Migran Indonesia pada 2022”, (2023), online: .

Nashirudin, Muh, M Usman & Mudofir Layyin Mahfiana, “Islam and gender Issues in Indonesian government policy on the protection of female migrant workers in Malaysia” (2020) 17:6 PalArch’s J Archaeol Egypt/Egyptology 8267–8289.

Nidatya, Nurfarah, Muhammad Kamil Ghiffary Abdurrahman & Dini Putri Saraswati, “Indonesia’s Foreign Policy : Suspends Sending Indonesian Migrant Workers (PMI) to Malaysia After the Establishment of the Online Maid System (SMO) by the Malaysian Government” (2023) 4:1 JDKP J Desentralisasi dan Kebijak Publik 99–111.

Nielsen, Ingrid & Sen Sendjaya, “Wellbeing among Indonesian labour migrants to Malaysia: Implications of the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding” (2014) 117 Soc Indic Res 919–938.

Noor, Noraini M & Muhamad Nabil Shaker, “Perceived workplace discrimination, coping and psychological distress among unskilled Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia” (2017) 57 Int J Intercult Relations 19–29.

Osborne, Stephen P & Louise Brown, “Innovation, public policy and public services delivery in the UK. The word that would be king?” (2011) 89:4 Public Adm 1335–1350.

Paksi, Arie Kusuma & Pebria Prakarsa Renta, “Indonesia’s pro-people foreign policy: the protection of Indonesian women migrant workers in Malaysia in 2022” (2023) 13:2 Otoritas J Ilmu Pemerintah 203–216.

Pangaribuan, Santa Maria et al, “Mediating Effects of Coping Strategies on the Relationship Between Mental Health and Quality of Life Among Indonesian Female Migrant Workers in Taiwan” (2022) 33:2 J Transcult Nurs 178–189.

Prianto, Andi Luhur, Aqmal Reza Amri & Goran Ilik, “Governing Migrant Workers Post-COVID-19 in Southeast Asia: Vulnerability, Mitigation and Transformative Agenda” in Polit Econ Dev Glob South Post-COVID-19 Pandemic (Springer, 2023) 139.

Putul, Sharmin Jahan & Md Tuhin Mia, Exploitation of migrant workers in Malaysia and protection under domestic laws (2020).

Rahayu, Devi & Ahmad Agus Ramdlany, “Responsibility of protection indonesian female migrant workers” (2016) 10:4 Int J Business, Econ Law 11–20.

Rahayu, Ninik, “Indonesian Migrant Worker Policies and the Vulnerability of Women Migrant Workers to Becoming Trafficking Victims: an Overview of Recent Legislation” (2018) 1:2 J Southeast Asian Hum Rights 159.

Ratha, Dilip K et al, COVID-19 crisis through a migration lens, by Dilip K Ratha et al (World Bank Group, 2020).

Rhodes, Roderick A W, “Policy network analysis” in Robert Goodin, Michael Moran & Martin Rein, eds, Oxford Handb Public Policy (Oxford Academic, 2008).

Rizka, Rizka et al, “Health rights for indonesian migrant workers in malaysia: A legal perspective” (2021) 15:1 Indian J Forensic Med Toxicol 1438–1441.

Saber, Hasan & Salwa Shaarawy Gomaa, “Policy networks as a unit of analysis of public policies a case study of the social and health insurance policy network in Egypt (2015–2019)” (2020) Rev Econ Polit Sci.

Setyawati, D, “Assets or commodities? Comparing regulations of placement and protection of migrant workers in Indonesia and the Philippines” (2013) ASEAS-Austrian J South-East Asian Stud.

Shalihah, Fithriatus, Agusmidah Agusmidah & Asri Wijayanti, “Effectiveness of one-stop integrated services in optimizing the role of Indonesian migrant workers protection agency in Central Java” (2021) 5 Linguist Cult Rev 1099–1110.

Sørensen, Eva, The metagovernance of public innovation in governance networks (2014).

Spaan, E & T Van Naerssen, “Migration decision-making and migration industry in the Indonesia–Malaysia corridor” (2018) J Ethn Migr Stud.

Sunam, Ramesh, “Infrastructures of migrant precarity: unpacking precarity through the lived experiences of migrant workers in Malaysia” (2023) 49:3 J Ethn Migr Stud 636–654.

Sundary, Rini Irianti et al, Legal Protection for Indonesian Migrant Workers During Pandemic Covid 19 (Atlantis Press, 2022).

Tjitrawati, Aktieva Tri, “Perlindungan Hak dan Pemenuhan Akses Atas Kesehatan Bagi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia di Malaysia” (2017) 29:1 Mimb Hukum-Fakultas Huk Univ Gadjah Mada 54–68.

Torfing, Jacob, “Co-innovation in Welfare States Across Europe” in Karen J Baehler, ed, Oxford Handb Gov Public Manag Soc Policy (Oxford Academic, 2023).

Uluwiyah, Fatimatul, “The Voice of Indonesian Migrant Workers Abroad: How is the Legal Assistance for Them?” (2021) 3:3 Indones J Int Clin Leg Educ 257–266.

Vries, Hanna De, Victor Bekkers & Lars Tummers, “Innovation in the public sector: A systematic review and future research agenda” (2016) 94:1 Public Adm 146–166.

Wahyuni, S, N Bachtiar & E Ridwan, “A Mapping of Job Opportunities for Indonesian Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Manufacturing Industry” (2019) J Soc Sci Res.

Walker, Richard M, “Internal and external antecedents of process innovation: A review and extension” (2014) 16:1 Public Manag Rev 21–44.

Wardana, Data, Mendra Wijaya & Raden Imam Al Hafis, “Enhancing Collaborative Governance in Managing Grand Forest Park in Riau, Indonesia” (2023) 4:2 Journal of Contemporary Governance and Public Policy 215–228.

Widayat, Yanne Yuniarti et al, “Mapping Policy Actors Using Social Network Analysis on Integrated Urban Farming Program in Bandung City” (2023) 15:12 Sustainability 9612.

Widyawati, Anis, “Legal Protection Model for Indonesian Migrant Workers” (2018) 3:2 J Indones Leg Stud 291–304.

Wijayanti, Henni & Arovah Windiani, Legal Protection and Advocacy for Indonesian Migrant Worker (2017).
World Bank, Malaysia - estimating the number of foreign workers : a report from the labor market data for monetary policy task, by World Bank (2019).

Yuvanti, Dita Aprilia, “Indonesian Government’s Efforts to Cooperate with Malaysia’s Government in Protecting Educational Rights of Indonesian Migrant Workers Children (Case Study: Children of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Sabah)” (2021) 2:2 J ASEAN Dyn Beyond 121.
How to Cite
PRIANTO, Andi Luhur; AMRI, Aqmal Reza; AJIS, Mohd Na’eim. Governance and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Malaysia. Journal of Southeast Asian Human Rights, [S.l.], v. 7, n. 2, p. 214-249, dec. 2023. ISSN 2599-2147. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 july 2024. doi:

Most read articles by the same author(s)

Obs.: This plugin requires at least one statistics/report plugin to be enabled. If your statistics plugins provide more than one metric then please also select a main metric on the admin's site settings page and/or on the journal manager's settings pages.