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Earthworm Foundation publishes resources to help oil plantations improve workers’ and children’s welfare in Indonesia
Earthworm Foundation publishes resources to help oil plantations improve workers’ and children’s welfare in Indonesia
News 21/8/2020

Jakarta, Indonesia -- Earthworm Foundation (EF), with members Avon, Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) and Nestlé, has developed two key resources to help Indonesian oil palm plantations protect the rights of children and temporary workers. Both resources can be found here:



Given the size and importance of the industry in Indonesia, EF believes that palm oil businesses can have a huge impact in improving the lives of workers and their children. According to 2018 data from the Indonesian Social Development and Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), the palm oil industry employs approximately 16.2 million people [1]. This number constituted 42% of those employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Indonesia, and 13% of total employment in the country in 2018 [2]. Yet, as public reports [3]indicate, many of these workers are employed in precarious conditions; often working with low wages, long hours and no social protections.

The most vulnerable are casual workers, predominantly women, who do work such as fertilizer and pesticides application, manual weeding and other maintenance work. These workers are supposed to be hired only for temporary work. But in practice, it is not uncommon to find them employed for years on consecutive short-term agreements; contrary to prevailing national regulations. They often work without basic employment protections such as written contracts and social security, and often earn below minimum wage.

In addition to this, issues such as child labour have also been reported on Indonesian oil palm plantations. Possible reasons include the lack of childcare and educational facilities for children in remote plantation areas. Additionally, high harvesting targets for workers may also drive them to bring their family members to plantations, which can increase the risk of children working in plantations. In some cases, inadequate recruitment processes can also increase this risk.

Available in English and Bahasa Indonesia, the guidelines are aligned with the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) principles and criteria, ISPO (Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil) standards and Indonesian employment regulations. Developed as practical ‘how to’ guidelines, they outline not only the importance of addressing issues faced by children and casual workforces, but also practical steps companies can take in mitigating these issues. From a business perspective, these guidelines can help oil palm plantations reduce their exposure to legal and reputational risks, as well as helping those seeking to meet certification standards.

EF hopes that palm oil companies – including small and medium-sized suppliers who may experience issues with child labour and casual workforces – benefit from these guidelines. Our target readers are also government and civil society organisations who can play a complementary role to efforts made by companies. We believe that only through collaboration between stakeholders can there be an improvement to working conditions in palm oil supply chains in Indonesia.

[1] Statement of Minister of Development and Planning Ministry at the 14th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference, 2 November 2018. Accessed from

[2] BPS. 2018. Working Population Ages Above 15 Years Old Based on Occupancy (2011 – 2018).

[3] and and

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Areas of work:
Respected workers


Óleo de Palma

Golden Agri-Resources Louis Dreyfus Company Nestlé

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