CONTEXT: Providing health care in remote and very remote areas has long been a major concern in Indonesia. In order to improve access to quality health care for residents in these areas, various policies on recruitment and deployment of health workers have been implemented, among them compulsory service, contracted staff and the Special Assignment of strategic health workers. ISSUE: Indonesia's difficult geography presents great challenges to health service delivery and most health workers prefer to serve in urban areas, resulting in an uneven distribution of health workers and shortages in remote areas. Great efforts have been made to mobilize health human resources more equitably, including placement schemes for strategic health workers and contracted staff, combined with an incentive scheme. While these have partially addressed the severe shortage of health workers in remote areas, current government policies were reviewed in order to clarify the current situation in Indonesia. LESSONS LEARNED: The Contracted Staff and Special Assignment of Strategic Health Workers programs show have made a significant contribution to improving the availability of health workers in Indonesia's remote areas. As these two programs used financial incentives as the main intervention, other non-financial interventions should also be trialed. For example, incentives such as the promise of a civil servant appointment or the provision of continuing professional education, as well as the recruitment of rural-background health workers may increase the willingness of health staff to serve in the remote and very remote areas of Indonesia.