Expats working in Indonesia will find themselves in an extremely diverse business environment. With over 300 different languages and ethnicities among a population of over 260 million people, the work culture will vary depending on where in Indonesia one is based. Jakarta is the country’s commercial centre and the best option for job-seeking expats.

Job market in Indonesia

Indonesia’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.

Finding a job in Indonesia

Most expats are employed by foreign companies in Indonesia and secure a job before arriving in the country, with many sent as part of an intra-company transfer. There are several 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 experience 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 an indirect style 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.