Tourism in Bali has certainly bounced back better than anticipated in 2022, but employers in the sector are struggling to find staff to support their business operations. Thousands of tourism workers lost their jobs overnight as the world went into lockdown, and now they are demanding better pay for their labor.
According to local hospitality business owners, potential employees demand up to 60% higher salaries than before the pandemic. Speaking to reporters, Made, who hosts an Airbnb in Bali, shared her struggle to hire a gardener. She explained that she advertised for two months after her regular gardener quit without working a notice period. She shared, “I advertised on Facebook five times, gradually increasing the salary until the fifth time when I found someone. By then I had increased the salary by 60 percent.”
The average salary for a Balinese tourism worker in 2019 was between IDR 2.5-3 million, now tourism employers looking for housekeeping staff, childminders, gardeners, and wait staff are seeing next to no applications coming in until the roles are advertised with a salary of IDR 5-6 million.
Freelance nanny, Ni Luh Putu Rustini, told a reporter that she is struggling to keep staff on board now that opportunities have opened up across the tourism sector in Bali and worldwide. She said, “During the pandemic, people would work for any money or just food. But now you have to offer 3.2 million rupiahs (USD 206) per month to even find someone to work and 5 to 6 million rupiahs (USD321-386) per month to keep them. It’s very easy to find a job now, so people are no longer satisfied with low salaries like before.”
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There is logic to why tourism workers in Bali are demanding more; the cost of living increasing. Not only this, workers can see how the cost of tourism experiences and holiday rental property prices are also increasing and they want to be paid accordingly. The cost of rental properties in Bali’s cultural capital of Ubud skyrocketed last year, with many landlords upping prices to reflect the changing economic landscape.
In September 2022, villa owner Ketut Puri told reporters he had chosen to increase the rental costs of his home in Ubud to reflect rising demand and the influx of tourists he had seen in the months prior. He explained, ‘In the past, the rental price was only to cover maintenance costs. Such as paying for electricity, laundry, and routine cleaning’. Now he has priced his villas to generate a greater profit, though he did not share by how much.
The reality for many Balinese workers is that they can see that tourism businesses are in dire need of staff, so the ball is really in their court. Hundreds of tourism businesses are in need of staff, and local workers have lots more options available to them than they once did.
Many are turning to online work that offers high pay and more flexibility, and many have turned to online taxi-hailing apps that also offer higher pay and far more flexibility without the stress. Cruise ships are fast becoming the tourism sector of choice for many Balinese workers. Roles for ‘unskilled workers’ offer between USD 16,000-22000 as an entry salary with a generous package of benefits; food, board, and the chance to travel.
Despite the contention of online ride-hailing apps in Bali, many tourism workers have been able to double their take-home earnings by becoming drivers. Ida Bagus Nuyama is now a GoJek driver, having lost his job in housekeeping at the beginning of the pandemic. He told reporters, “Now I earn four million rupiah (USD 257) a month after paying for expenses, and it’s not hard work like at the villa. I just drive around and listen to music all day.”
In late 2022 Dr. Nyoman Diana, the Board Director of PT Crew Transfer International (CTI), shared how the opportunity to work on cruise ships is a favorable option for many workers. She said, ‘After the Covid-19 subsided, around 9,000 people joined on board [cruises staffed by CTI]. Because of the number of crew on a medium-sized cruise ship, it requires around 1,500 workers, and from that number, there is 30 to 35 percent of Indonesian Migrant Workers (PMI). This is a very good opportunity for the Balinese, especially the productive age group’.
It remains to be seen how the dynamic between businesses and workers will establish balance in 2023 as the tourism sector in Bali moves into a new economic landscape.
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