Expats working in Indonesia will find themselves in an extremely diverse business environment. With over 300 different languages and ethnicities amongst a population of over 260 million people, the work culture will vary depending on where in Indonesia one is based. 

The job market in Indonesia

The country’s rich supply of natural resources has attracted expats with skills in mining and construction, while agriculture is another large employer. Other important sectors of the Indonesian economy include textiles, electronics and manufacturing of apparel and footwear. There are also opportunities for expats wanting to teach English in Indonesia, while others move there to take up a position within the humanitarian or tourism sectors.

Jakarta is the country’s commercial centre and where the majority of expats will find work. Others are likely to find opportunities in Surabaya and Bandung, or in the oil and gas and mining regions of Kalimantan and Papua. 

Finding a job in Indonesia

The majority of expats are employed by foreign companies in Indonesia and secure a job before arriving in the country, with many sent as part of an inter-company transfer. There are a number of local job portals for searching for jobs online.

Foreigners wanting to work in Indonesia will need a valid work permit. The process for acquiring a work permit for Indonesia can be quite complicated but, thankfully, most hiring companies will deal with all the logistics for this.

It is not always easy for expats to find employment, as government policy dictates that companies wanting to hire foreigners in Indonesia will need to show that the potential employee has significant skills in their sector and that there are no locals capable of filling the position. Certain sectors also have restrictions on the employment of expats. The bureaucratic hurdles in this regard can be quite intense and companies are therefore often reluctant to hire foreigners. 

Work culture in Indonesia

Expats working in Indonesia will generally find themselves in a friendly and welcoming environment. Business structures are hierarchical and the concept of saving face should always be considered in order to maintain harmonious relationships and avoid offending Indonesian colleagues. 

The communication style in Indonesia may be something expats take a while to get used to – Indonesians often adopt a very indirect style in order to avoid offending anyone. Expats, therefore, need to exercise patience when engaging in negotiations with Indonesian counterparts, as an answer of "yes" may sometimes indicate that an associate has heard the request, rather than an actual answer to the question.