May Day in Jakarta

jakarta

Protests in downtown Jakarta (image courtesy Asia Foundation)

More than 100,000 workers are expected to fill the streets of Jakarta today to demand an increase to the minimum wage, workplace protections, and basic healthcare as Indonesia marks May Day as a public holiday for the first time.

Workers will march from several areas across Jakarta from the Pulogadung Industrial Area, KBN & Cakung converging at HI roundabout before heading towards the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta, and will probably shut down the city – as May Day protests did last year. And I won’t be going into the city until later, so I should be spared the chaos.

US university dumps adidas: first-ever contract loss over sweatshop abuse

Yup! Pay up, pricks!

Ex-Adidas workers who continue to protest their mistreatment will also march alongside unions. Women who worked at the Adidas factory in Jakarta reportedly earned around 50 cents an hour making shoes until they were sacked without severance pay. Adidas still hasn’t paid them.

For one day of of protest, Indonesia’s workers are not asking for all that much 

The minimum wage in Jakarta is 2,441 Rupiah or $209.00 USD per month, and is highest in the country. It is calculated as a workweek comprised of 7 hour days at 40 hours a week as a 6 day workweek, or as 8 hour a days at 5 a days a week. But most at the minimum wage end of the labour market do not receive the minimum, particularly in the informal and unskilled sectors. Those that do receive the minimum wage still struggle find it hard to survive with the cost of living in Jakarta rising each month.

Selamat hari buruh kawan-kawan!

 

Indonesia’s Aspirationals

The world seems to be placing it’s hopes for the development and democratisation of Indonesia on the shoulders of the growth of the country’s growing middle class. But within some members of this emerging group there lingers an inegalitarian culture reflective of New Order and late-colonial notions of elitism, a patronising classism antipathetic to democratic values, and a burning desire to own a sedan and a live-in $150 a-month maid. 

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Jakarta’s slums and the place of residence of many of Jakarta’s poor working class. Photo Businessweek.com

Those that live in Jakarta will have noticed the occasional snobbery and anti-egalitarianism of some of the middle class and orang kaya baru crowd (the new rich, who aren’t actually “rich” at all). As Indonesia’s middle class emerged in the 1990s, some hoped that the issues of the redistribution of wealth in society would become a point of interest for the class. It clearly hasn’t. In fact the markers of inequality are ironically more distinct than ever.

I sometimes chat with the pembantu (housemaids) of the apartment complex where I live in Jakarta as I get breakfast on my way out into Jakarta’s mind boggling traffic in the morning (made worse daily by the increasing numbers of sedans on the raod). They gather in the sun to nurse the babies of their middle-class employees downstairs while their boss sits idly nearby playing with their smartphone, probably tweeting about politics, poverty, environmentalism or democracy.

I asked one of the young pembantu what she thought about the upcoming last week, to which she replied “I voted for the party my boss asked me to vote for because I don’t undestand”, at which I choked a little on my gorengan and replied with a polite but loaded “good”. Another said her boss said it wasn’t important for her to vote and that they needed her to stay at home to look after their (overpampered brat of a) child.

People pay their pembantu between $50 and $200 a month here. They are a symbol of status and as having made it as a middle-class Indonesian. They are live in maids, who usually live a converted laundry-like room at the back of the house or on the floor of the ‘loungeroom’ of the box-like apartments Jakarta’s middle class increasingly favour.

The apartment complex where I live is chock full of middle class Indonesians who perceive themselves to have made it, simply because they live in an ‘apartment’ which is actually more like a broom closet. But hey., they can say they live in an apartment with a pembantu to trail behind the while they wander aimlessly around the mall downstairs.

Meet Indonesia’s aspirational middle class. Indonesia is big, but it’s growing economy is bigger. Indonesia is the world’s 16th largest economy (Australia is 12th), and the transition of millions of Indonesians out of poverty into a middle or ‘consuming class’ is a big part of that growth story.

But, the reality is, this emerging middle class is actually still very poor. But this class cherish the class markers that distinguish them from their “lower class” fellow Indonesians.

The so-called consuming class commentators are getting so excited about is comprised of households with earnings of just US$7500 per year at purchasing power parity rates. But that’s still enough to afford a broom closet apartment and a live in maid (God knows where these poor girls sleep. Sometimes they go home to the slum areas of Jakarta each night by the rivers or under the highway toll bridges).

The world is cheering on Indonesia’s emerging middle class as the potential flagbearers of Indonesia’s democracy, but this society still has a long way to go with it’s dated notions of elitism and the illusions of prosperity propped up by an atrocious lack of economic equality and a class of working poor living on less than $2 a day.

This post has also appeared as an article in The Stand

 

Indonesia’s 2014 Elections – Ready, Set, Go!

Well here we are. Today the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesia, will hold its’ parliamentary elections as precursor to the country’s third direct presidential vote in July

As those living in Indonesia may have noticed, parties here will employ incredible, sometimes ridiculous tactics to gain votes. For this year’s elections there are some pretty colourful candidates including a former Miss Indonesia, five former models, at least eight actresses, and nine dangut singers. Googling their names may bring up “leaked” nude photos, swimsuit or lingerie ads, and softcore sex scenes. Parties that recruit these sexy celebrity women as their candidates believe that their famous faces and public notoriety will win votes in a country where name recognition is low and campaign posters remain the best way of reaching voters.

Joko Widodo, expected by many to be Indonesia’s next president, is current governor of Jakarta, a former furniture salesman, former mayor of the central Javan city of Solo or Surakarta and heavy metal fan. His main contendor from the Gerindra Party (Greater Indonesia Party) is businessman, politician and  ex-special forces commander Prabowo.

For most people I talk to, many aren’t overly impressed with the quality of candidates on offer, even when it comes to the most popular. Some feel that Jokowi hasn’t finished his duties as Governor of Jakarta and should have waited until the next elections and for this reason, feel that he is too much of a career politician. For Prabowo, his’ past as a commander under the Suharto regime continues to haunt him.

Initial results from the parliamentary race will most likely be released tonight or tomorrow and after that, the formation of the presidential candidate line-up will move into full motion, and the presidential campaigns will really begin.

To all my Indonesian friends in politics, Good luck!

PS. To my Indonesian friends, kalau Anda gak tahu apa-apa tentang calon-calonnya pemilu ikut link ini untuk data lengkap http://portalkbr.com/kenalicaleg/ 🙂