The plural regulation of work: a pilot study of restaurant workers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Petra Mahy, Richard Mitchell, Sean Cooney, John Howe

Research output: Book/ReportOther ReportResearch


This research project investigates the formal laws and informal norms and institutions, and the overlaps and interactions between them, in the regulation of work arrangements in restaurants in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. While there has been much attention paid in recent years to the failure of formal labour law to protect workers around the world, there is far less understanding of what actually determines working conditions of many workers beyond the scope of the law. While the importance of informal norms and institutions in regulating work is beginning to be acknowledged in the literature on labour law, the functioning of informal regulation and its relationship to formal labour law is still poorly understood. This empirical project aims to explore this gap in understanding in this one location and economic sector.

This Report begins with a discussion of relevant terms and definitions, and outlines the scope of the study. An extensive review of the international literature on the informal regulation of work is then provided.

The Report introduces the labour law and social security framework in Indonesia, and extends the literature review on the informal regulation of work to the Indonesian context.The Report then presents the results of a pilot study conducted in the City of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The research used a qualitative interview-based methodology with 30 people working in a range of restaurants and other eateries during 2013. The research explored various aspects of the relevant work arrangements including: recruitment, use of contracts and other agreements, probation, wages and other allowances and benefits, bonuses, working hours,overtime, holidays and leave, workplace safety, forms of social security, workplace relations and disputes, discipline,and ending of work arrangements. The study also touched on the role of ‘institutions of social identity’ including gender, age and ethnicity, in determining work arrangements and also documented respondents’ knowledge of Indonesian labour law and personal attitudes towards their work.

The pilot study found evidence of a spectrum of formality/informality in the regulation of work in restaurants in Yogyakarta, ranging from workplaces which follow Indonesian labour law to a greater degree through to workplaces where work arrangements are determined by principles of family-ness (kekeluargaan) which encompass notions of patron–client relations and reciprocity. It found a substantial middle area where many businesses use some elements of the formal labour laws but combine them with kekeluargaan principles. It also found instances of regulatory interaction where a law, norm or institution has influenced the work arrangement at the opposite end of the formality/informality spectrum. The research in Yogyakarta is found to support many of the insights drawn from a review of the international and Indonesia-specific literature on informal regulation in work arrangements.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne Vic Australia
PublisherUniversity of Melbourne
Number of pages76
ISBN (Print)9780734053916
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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