Indonesia Table of Contents

One of the most significant trends in Indonesian society in the 1970s and 1980s was urbanization. Although cities in Indonesia were not a new phenomenon, from 1971 to 1990 the percentage of the population living in urban areas rose from 17 percent to nearly 31 percent nationally. Surveys showed that the movement toward urban areas, particularly to West Java, and to southeastern Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and other islands, stemmed not from the innate lure of the cities but from the lack of employment in the countryside. Migrants seemed to view the pollution, crime, anonymity, and grinding poverty of the city as short-term discomforts that would eventually give way to a better life. For high-school and college graduates with no prospects for employment in the rural areas, this may in fact have been a correct assumption. But for those migrants without capital or qualifications, the main hope for employment was in the so-called "informal sector": street vending, scavenging, and short-term day labor. Many migrants also cultivated tiny but nutritionally important gardens.

Most urban growth was in cities of more than 1 million in size. Jakarta's population--11.5 million in 1990--was projected to rise to 16.9 million by 2000, which would make it the eleventh largest city in the world. Although the capital enjoyed a disproportionate amount of the nation's resources--with 30 percent of all telephones in the country, 25 percent of all cars, and 30 percent of all physicians--anthropologist P.D. Milone observed in the mid-1960s that "Jakarta has never been a true 'primate' city in terms of being the only center for economic, political, administrative, higher education, and technical functions" in the way that, for example, Bangkok has been for Thailand. Surabaya has always been a major import-export center and a major naval station, and Bandung has been a center for transportation, higher education, and industry. Nonetheless, in terms of population growth and as a symbol of the centralization of power in the nation, Jakarta has steadily grown in importance.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress