DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home
"Unemployment - still at
around 80% - continues to be a major concern, especially in East Timor's
cities. The situation has become highly sensitive in Dili, where society
is clearly two-tier, divided by very different ways and standards of living.
... The qualifications of job applicants, especially those of applicants
to the civil service, ought to be adjusted to match the local reality,
rather than have to adhere to an imported, out of touch framework. In this
respect, ever since UNTAET'S arrival, English language skills have become
a priority requirement for the UN administration - not for East Timor."
East Timor Observatory
Subject: Employment and
unemployment one year after international intervention
2. public administration
3. pay and working conditions
4. programs and other
5. private sector
Unemployment - still at around 80% - continues
to be a major concern, especially in East Timor's cities. The situation
has become highly sensitive in Dili, where society is clearly two-tier,
divided by very different ways and standards of living. A year after UNTAET's
arrival, most permanent jobs are to be found in the civil service, in spite
of the fact that the number of civil servants in the new administration
is to be far less than the number previously employed in the Indonesian
administration in East Timor. The cutback has been justified by the need
to create a sustainable state apparatus.
As many temporary and/or intensive work
programmes end or are being slimmed down, the private sector becomes increasingly
vital as a means of generating employment. So far, however, the private
enterprise has only created about 1,000 jobs. While foreign investment
is also indispensable, it should not be accepted at any price: "..this
is not the Far West..", warned the UN transitional administrator. It is
important, therefore, that laws governing property, the records for which
have been destroyed, are put in place
without delay. top
The devastated state in which East Timor
was left last year called for rapid and strong international intervention.
Employment creation programmes were developed to provide immediate responses
to the needs of the Timorese. However, the slow workings of the administrative
machine combined with delays in both the arrival of funding and the establishment
of mechanisms that ensure local participation, have caused the entire social
reconstruction process to get off to a late start. The situation at the
moment does not appear to be dissimilar to that of a few months ago (see
According to the East Timor Transitional
Administration (ETTA) web page,
approximately 24,000 Timorese were employed as of 28 April 2000. Of this
number, approximately 94% were working for specialist UN Agencies; 68%
were working in temporary employment and/or job rotation schemes (TEPs,
QIPs and UNICEF); 22% were employed in the civil service, while 4% were
employed by UNTAET. The remaining 6% were distributed between NGOs (4%)
and the private sector (2%) (ETTA web page). Although these figures are
now outdated, their relative distribution is not likely to have altered
significantly. Urban areas are the worst hit: "4 out of every 5 working-age
people in the cities are jobless" (Asiaweek, 5-5-2000); "…about 80%" (Reuters,
administration and services
ETTA's definition of its overall strategy
for the new civil service was: "…to keep staffing levels small but adequate,
to move towards payment of competitive salaries and wages and to create
a motivating work environment through non-monetary incentives" (ETTA web
a) public employment
b) public services
The number of public civil servants to be
hired has been set at about 12,200, - only 36% of the number employed in
the Indonesian civil service. It is hoped that by the end of the year,
around 7,000 jobs will have been created in the new civil service (Sérgio
V. de Mello, 8-5). Most of these jobs will be for teachers, health workers
and police officers. The limit was fixed on the basis of the country's
size and resources: "UNTAET knows it can only establish the basic services
that East Timor will then be able to maintain. (…) we cannot build what
the East Timorese cannot then afford to run", said one Australian official
(The Australian, 26-6).
Although more than 25,000 East Timorese were
employed by the civil service in the last years of Jakarta's administration,
all decision-making was in the hands of Indonesian officials and most Timorese
jobs were of the kind that gave them little or no administrative experience
(The Australian, 26-6-2000)
Andrew Whitley [head of UNTAET's civil service]
decided to advertise civil service vacancies among the Timorese living
in Indonesia, and to accept applications from anyone who had not been formally
accused of a major crime (Foreign Affairs, 24-6-2000).
In the 1st phase of a UNTAET campaign to register
Timorese who were civil servants in the former Indonesian administration
in East Timor, 17,500 people had been registered by early October. The
aim of the initiative is to provide the concrete data needed for the negotiations
on payment of pensions owed by Indonesia to its former civil servants (UNTAET,
On 2 August, the first Timorese permanent
civil servant in the new East Timorese administration was recruited. Since
then, 49% of civil service vacancies for Timorese have been filled. By
November, the number of Timorese appointed as civil servants was 5,969
(UNTAET, 17-11). The apparent increase in the figure given on ETTA's web
page for civil servants (3,997) is due to the incorporation of some of
the teachers who were being paid, temporarily, by UNICEF (6,862). The total
figure represents, in real terms, a considerable reduction in job numbers
in this sector (from 10,859 to 5,969). Meanwhile, 273 of the 500 security
guards hired by UNTAET 6 months earlier were laid off (UNTAET, 24-10-2000).
The Civil Service Campus, in Comoro, Dili,
which was opened on 8 May, houses the Public Service Commission, the HR
Development Centre, Central Recruitment Office and the Civil Service Academy.
The Academy provides trainer training courses in languages, management
and vocational skills programmes, as well as job skill courses (including
language, office admin/management, computing and IT) for young unemployed
people seeking to enhance their employability. By the end of 2000, an estimated
600 people will have completed the Academy programme (ETTA web page).
The Public Service Commission substituted
3 of its members, and is currently composed of 6 Timorese and 1 foreigner.
Its mission is to establish the policies, procedures and guidelines for
the new East Timor Administration [for further information see EMP01 and
The first employment centre opened in Dili
in late August. Its primary task will be to identify job vacancies in the
district and find suitable candidates for them, as well as providing information
about training courses (UNTAET, 22-8-2000).
and working conditions
All these issues are new to the Timorese,
who previously had neither the opportunity nor the structures for dialogue
with Indonesian authority. It was Sérgio V. de Mello himself who,
in an attempt to reach a settlement with striking Timorese UNTAET staff,
recommended to them that they form a staff association to represent them
and negotiate for them (UNTAET, 5-5-2000).
A temporary pay scale [setting rates of between
about US$77 to 318 per month for unskilled to senior administrator categories
respectively] has been established, as well as working hours and overtime
conditions. The pay scale and working conditions only apply to those working
for ETTA (ETTA web p. & UNTAET, 5-5).
No minimum pay scale or employment conditions
have been established, or are expected to be, for Timorese employed by
UNTAET, UN agencies, NGOs or private sector. UNTAET has only recommended
a maximum daily wage of US$ 5- 6 for an unskilled Timorese worker, and
pays US$6-US$7.5 to Timorese working in the road cleaning programmes (Green
Left Weekly, 3-5-2000); the Australian owner of the "Hello Mister" supermarket
pays his employees 20,000 rupiahs [about US$4], but pays performance-linked
supplements (Australian Financial Review, 29.8.2000). "A Timorese labourer's
daily wage of $6 per day [6 Australian dollars, i.e. US$ 3.5] now buys
2 cappuccinos" (St. Petersburg Times, 16-6-2000).
The presence of international workers earning
high salaries has driven up prices and, thus, inflation. Frustration, already
rife because of the high hopes the Timorese had for this first year of
"independence", has been exacerbated by the emergence of a deep divide:
"the influx of foreigners has in effect created two societies - one poor
and jobless, the other rich and employed" (Los Angeles Times, David Lamb,
22-6-2000). For some Timorese, foreign presence is regarded as "a second
invasion" (ABC/BBC, 7-5-2000), giving rise to social demands and frequent
While the demands are legitimate and based
on objective motives - imported inflation has badly hit Timorese living
standards - they also have a subjective element - the desire for their
earnings to match those of the foreign workers. If this were to happen,
however, the consequences in terms of stability could be dire, both now
and in future, for Timorese society. A flagrant example of this was the
demand by the new Timorese judges for their salaries to increase from US$361
to US$3,000 per month (UNTAET, 10-10-2000).
UNTAET justifies the containment of salaries
on grounds that the future Timorese government will need a sustainable
public sector (UNTAET, 10-10-2000) and, more generally, on grounds that
the Timorese are lacking in competences. The considerable emphasis placed
on computing and English language skills [which most Timorese do not have]
reflects negatively on the assessment of other qualifications. No one seems
to question the priority given to language and IT courses in the recently
formed Civil Service Academy (ETTA web page & UNTAET, 8-5-2000) to
the detriment of teaching more basic skills. Strangely enough, the sustainability
argument, so often used in matters of finance, is forgotten in many other
and other funding
a) Quick Impact Projects (QIPs)
Finance for these projects is available
from 3 funds: UNTAET (US$ 1 million), OCHOA (US$ 150,000), and UNHCR (US$
200,000), distributed equitably throughout the 13 districts. Projects are
presented by (national or international) organisations or groups of individuals,
and have a dual aim: public infrastructures rehabilitation, and immediate
income generation (mostly in the form of short-term employment) for people
in need, or providing people with the basic tools with which to recommence
their economic activity. Projects also aim at community capacity-building
and empowerment. Building roads, water supply networks, health care units,
etc. are among the QIPs already carried out, while others have focused
on areas such as supporting the manufacture of "tais" (traditional Timorese
woven fabric), and supplying tools for agriculture. QIPs were able to respond
to immediate needs, in contrast to other, slower reconstruction programmes.
The main obstacle, however, lies in the shortage of organisations and groups
capable of implementing projects in the sub-districts. Their continuation
in 2001 is not certain (UNTAET 25/26-20-2000).
b) Transitional Employment Programme
The main focus of the TEP, which is financed
by USAID with over US$13 million, is youth employment in schemes that not
only are of benefit the community but also provide young people with a
sense of participation in the rebuilding of their country, as well as confidence
in community leaders and in UNTAET. Projects are designed and implemented
jointly with District Administrators, local representatives and NGOs (ETTA,
By October, 50,000 people had been employed,
temporarily and in rotation, in road clearance, drainage system maintenance,
repair of markets, sports facilities, schools, and community building restoration
work. TEPS-II (Transitional Engagement for Population Support), launched
in September, is oriented more towards community development (USAID, 3-10-2000).
c) East Timor Community Assistance
Financed by AusAID (Aus.$ 800,000), is
a programme that supports training initiatives in woodwork, fishing, mulberry
plantation for local silk production, and human rights education. These
initiatives have provided jobs and improved livelihoods for an estimated
1,200 people (AusAID, 31-8-2000).
d) Dili Community Employment Generation
When this joint World Bank - UNDP project,
with a total funding of US$ 499,000 for 5 months, ceases in December, it
will have provided an average of 20 days employment in cleaning up work
for about 5,000 of Dili district's poorest people (World Bank TFET).
e) Community Empowerment and Local
Governance Project (CEP)
The UN Trust Fund is financing the CEP
with a total of US$ 22.5 m. over 2 ½ years [the 1st tranche is US$
7 m.]. The programme's aim is to create transparent, participatory and
accountable local Timorese governance structures. In the beginning, democratically
selected councils would be a way for communities to rehabilitate basic
economic infrastructure and restart economic activities. By early November,
408 village councils and 57 sub-districts (6,270 council members) had been
elected. Threats to security disrupted council elections in 3 sub-districts
in Suai, close to the border.
So far, 619 projects have been approved:
meeting halls (43%), feeder roads and farming infrastructure (25%), productive
equipment restoration (15%), repair of water supply (10%), schools and
Representatives from USAID, AusAID, World
Bank and the Asian Development Bank, conducted field visits to assesses
gender and social inclusion, information and communication at community
level, formation and role of village development councils and NGOs, the
impact on markets and rural economies of community development schemes
to date. The projects assessed included the TEPs, ETCAS, CEP and Dili CEGP
(WB TFET, 6-10-2000).
f) Return of Qualified Nationals
Set up by the IOM (Internat. Organisation
for Migration) to strengthen technical skills in the public and private
sectors by securing the return of 300 specialised Timorese, the programme
was far from achieving its goal. In May, the IOM had received a total of
21 job offers from the Civil Service and Public Administration office.
In October, the IOM advertised 84 vacancies in Timor, but failed to mention
how many returns the programme had secured.
g) bilateral and multilateral programmes
Norway, the UK, Japan, Australia and Portugal
finance other job creation programmes, mostly in the area of road repair
work (UNTAET, 5-7-2000).
a) Small Enterprise Project (SEP)
The SEP was created within the framework
of the UN Trust Fund with a budget of US$ 10 million for a 2-year period.
The first stage, with an initial grant of US$4,850 for 2000, seeks to provide
small loans for enterprises [US$4 million], and provide a grant [US$850,000]
to support the land and Property Department. The loans, which range from
$500 to $50,000 for each approved project, are repayable in 36 months;
the interest charged is 10% per year. As of end of June, the project had
received US$30 million in applications - 7 ½ times the amount available,
which Sérgio V. de Mello regarded as a sign that the Timorese were
interested in creating small enterprises. Of the 2,100 loan applications,
many were rejected because of non-viable business plans. This, combined
with the slow processing of the large volume of applications, led to some
social unrest. The US$307,000, available for each of the 13 districts,
was quickly exhausted in Dili.
However, in the remaining 12 districts,
on average only about one third of the funds had been disbursed in approved
loans. The loans support the establishment of enterprises in sectors like
transportation, retail, mechanical agriculture, restaurants, carpentry,
bakery, tailoring, brick manufacturing, fishery, photocopying and cattle
trade. The average size of the 190 loans approved in the first phase was
approx. US$10,000, which will create 900 new jobs - higher than the 700
jobs originally forecasted. 17% of the approved loans (totalling US$2,691
million) were allocated to projects presented by women (WB TFET).
b) Microfinance Development Program
Approved in September by the Asian Development
Bank (ADB), with a budget of US$7.8 million from TFET, the program is to
be implemented by UNTAET as of December. The overall aim is to strengthen
and facilitate capacity building in the poorest communities by providing
of means finance and training for entrepreneurship. The project's main
components are: rural finance for
microenterprise activities; institutional
building/strengthening (rehabilitating at between 20 and 24 credit unions),
supporting the sign-up of 6,000 members within one year of implementation,
and the creation of a microfinance bank, and project management (ADB, 22-9-2000;
WB TFET, 9-11-2000).
c) Business opportunities & foreign
Only 10% of the 1,048 businesses registered
(in early May?) with UNTAET were really functioning. About 90% of the registrations
were for kiosks and shops selling basic needs goods. Most businesses were
waiting for loan approval so they could become operational (ETTA web page).
By the end of July, 2,977 private businesses had been registered, the most
visible ones belonging to foreigners, mainly Australians. Their hotels,
restaurants, supermarkets, provide the UN peace-keeping missions and foreign
aid workers with goods and prices beyond the reach of the local population:
"East Timor's economy resembles the Wild West as small-time foreign business
people try to make quick profits" (St. Petersburg Times, 16-6-2000). As
foreign investment was identified by UNTAET as a key area that will contribute
towards the territory's development, it has set up an Investment Promotion
Unit, in order to "provide a coordinated response to investment proposals,
to develop an investment policy and to promote East Timor as an investment
destination" (Investment News no 1, 8-7-2000).
However, Jean-Christian Cady, Deputy SRSG,
reported that two obstacles persisted: "…private foreign investment would
come to East Timor when two criteria were met - public security and security
of land tenure. He stressed that public security had been basically achieved,
but that land tenure remained a challenge" (UNTAET Department of Public
The qualifications of job applicants, especially
those of applicants to the civil service, ought to be adjusted to match
the local reality, rather than have to adhere to an imported, out of touch
framework. In this respect, ever since UNTAET'S arrival, English language
skills have become a priority requirement for the UN administration - not
for East Timor. Having said that, the deficit in terms of technical skills
is clearly a vast. The answer lies in training and in gaining experience,
and in acknowledging and accepting that this process will take time. The
establishment of the Civil Service Academy for executive training, and
well as the appointment Timorese staff at different decision-making levels
are steps that need to be taken actually before the date of independence.
The deep disparities between salaries paid
to Timorese and foreigners is a cause for concern. The number of foreign
officials should be restricted as soon as possible, and they should take
on the role of trainers and advisers, rather than be substituting the Timorese.
The temporary work programs were solutions
resorted to in an exceptional situation. Even if they could or ought to
be prolonged - because the situation is still exceptional - the real key
to combating generalised unemployment lies in the private sector - in the
population's own capacity to create the foundations of its productive apparatus
oriented towards the territory and the population in their current phase.
The different forms of financing, particularly microfinance, seem the most
appropriate at this stage. Given East Timor's history, the large number
of projects submitted is evidence that the Timorese themselves are motivated
and determined to be the ones to rebuild and energise the territory's development.
Whenever issues connected with employment,
as well as other areas, are being considered, the fact that 80 to 90% of
the Timorese population is involved in agricultural work and directly depends
upon it, should always be taken into account.
and information relating to this subject have been compiled between 1-5-2000
and 30-11-2000 by the East Timor Observatory in a 45-page thematic Dossier
entitled "Employment - ref. EMP02". The Dossier and/or further information
may be ordered from the East Timor Observatory.
Observatory for the
monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão
para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax: 351
1 317 28 70 - e-mail:
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069
Lisboa - Portugal
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs
- the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and
the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor, which
have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties.
The aim of the Observatory was to monitor East Timor's transition process,
as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international
level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
Duas Organizações Não
Governamentais portuguesas, a COMISSÃO PARA OS DIREITOS DO POVO
MAUBERE (CDPM) e o grupo ecuménico A PAZ É POSSÍVEL
EM TIMOR LESTE que, desde o início da década de oitenta,
se solidarizam com a causa do Povo de Timor Leste, tomaram a decisão
de criar o OBSERVATÓRIO TIMOR LESTE. A vocação do
Observatório Timor Leste é, no quadro das recentes alterações
do regime de Jacarta face a Timor Leste, o acompanhamento, a nível
internacional, do processo negocial e, no interior do território,
do inevitável período de transição que se anuncia.
Deux Organisations Non Gouvernementales
portugaises, la ‘Commission pour les Droits du Peuple Maubere’ et l’association
oecuménique "La Paix est Possible au Timor Oriental", qui se solidarisent
avec la cause du peuple du Timor Oriental depuis le début des années
80, ont pris la décision de créer un OBSERVATOIRE TIMOR ORIENTAL.
La vocation de cet observatoire est d’accompagner le processus de transition
du Timor Oriental, aussi bien le processus de négociation que ses
répercussions au niveau international et l’évolution de la
situation à l’intérieur du territoire.
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