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by Jennie S. Bev, Jakarta

As a writer, I measure my productivity based on words per hour. In a good day, I would be able to complete at least 6,000 words or 7 short articles like this one or one long-form journalism ebook popularized by Amazon as a “Kindle single”. I haven’t reached my utmost productivity level yet, but so far so good.

As a worker in the US and (now) an entrepreneur, I measure someone’s productivity based on units produced per hour. It is time for Indonesia to measure a worker’s productivity on hourly basis, so it would be easier for businesses to measure their performance and the workers’ productivity level. 

While in the US it is the most common measurement of productivity, “per hour output” in Indonesia is a foreign concept.

In Indonesia, wages at all levels aren’t based on per-hour actual work done but based on monthly attendance. This forms bad habits among workers (both blue and white collar workers) because regardless of the quality and the quantity of output, they feel they are entitled to the same amount of monthly salary.

In the US, if you don’t work up to par per hour, the door will be shown to you due to “at will” working agreement, in which the employer isn’t obliged to provide any severance package. In Indonesia, an employer is by law obliged to provide a hefty severance package due to the pro-worker Labor Law. 

Sure, protecting laborers’ rights is admirable, but it also spoils them, which is dangerous to the country’s economy overall. Indonesian workers are notorious for low productivity and a high sense of entitlement. 

In the US, minimum wages differ from city to city, as living costs vary greatly. However, there is a federal minimum wage, which must be followed by every state. As of July 24, 2009, the US federal minimum wage is US$7.25. Effective on Jan. 1, 2014, the minimum wage in San Francisco is $10.74, which is due to the high cost of living. 

In Jakarta, based on the current rate Rp 2,299,860, the hourly minimum wage based on 8 hours of work per day is Rp 14,374 or $1.3. Minimum wages in China range from RMB 12 to RMB 15 per hour (or Rp 22,000 to Rp 28,000). 

Sure, China’s minimum wage is double Jakarta’s. However, a business measures output in comparison to the expenses, both financial and other expenses. 

The main reason for such low productivity is equal pay despite the amount of work completed, or not. In the US and other countries where minimum wages are measured hourly, the popular adage is “no work, no pay”. 

In Indonesia, due to its monthly minimum wage, regardless of output, people are paid the same as those whose outputs are high. Work or no work, the pay checks still come.

Even as a writer, I measure my work outputs based on “hour” measurement. In a good day, I can finish this short article in one hour, thus, let say the Rp 600,000 received as the payment is indeed a testament of an hour well spent. Yes, think like this: $60 per hour is not bad. Not bad at all. Assuming I finish five articles per day, thus earning $300 in one day is a good way of living, isn’t it? 

I would suggest Indonesian workers measure their productivity in hours. For instance, work requiring more intense thinking and higher order of skills would pay much more per hour. Those who work without much thinking and merely using their hands (like packing or pouring) would receive a much lower wage per hour.

The government should compare the hourly wages of neighboring countries, such as fellow ASEAN countries and other developing countries in Asia and Africa. They also need to understand the carrot-and-sticks approach in forms of working agreements and policies that boost national productivity.[]

The Jakarta Post, November 4, 2013

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