Indonesia Inquiry

Labor Issues with Gender in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

March 28, 2016 Annotated Bibliographies Data Research Resources 0


Labor Issues with Gender in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

Compiled by: Shannay Baradaran

Directed Individual Study, Spring 2016

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Andriyani, Nori. 1996. “The making of Indonesian Women Worker Activists.” Masters Thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns (July): 1-157.

This study is an effort to combine activism and academic work. This study is not only aimed for academic purposes, but also for practical utilization by labor activists in their work to improve workers’ conditions. My research focuses on the increasing evidence of industrial women workers’ militancy in contemporary Indonesia. This issue is significant because, first, Indonesian women workers are able to manifest their political voice despite pressure on the labor movement by the ruling powers. Second, the increasing militancy of contemporary Indonesian women workers represents the voice of the lower class women, which has not been represented by the women’s organizations dominated by middle class women. — The research utilized a case study method. The information was gained from a group of women workers in Alpena factory (pseudonym) in Jakarta. The study aims to find out how women workers manifest their resistance, and to understand the process whereby they become activists. Through the case study of Alpena women workers, it is found that resistance is manifested through acts that range from everyday forms of resistance to open and organized collective action. The everyday forms of resistance are acts that are unorganized, informal, individually initiated, and not evidently challenging authority; for example gossiping about the management’s oppressive policies, talking back to supervisors or taking a long time in the toilet. — Everyday forms of resistance can lead to open and organized collective action, such as a strike. The everyday forms of resistance function as a glue that keeps the workers’ spirit of resistance up and provides experience in learning to resist. This finding is in keeping with long standing feminist efforts to redefine politics, which traditionally have been seen as limited to the realm of formal organizations, such as trade unions, political parties, and governments. The old definition ignores many of women’s most important political acts. — This research is also a critique of Manning’s Neoclassical economic argument that the increasing workers’ protest actions in Indonesia are not yet significant enough to enable am organized labor movement. Manning argues that Indonesia is still in a situation of a labor surplus economy. This study also posits a critique of the Marxist labor activists’ perspective that Indonesian workers are not political because the present resistance is only about economic demands and not about the overturning of the dominant capitalist structure and the hegemonic ruling powers. The main critique of both the Neoclassical economic position and the Marxist perspective is that they ignore the significance of grassroots politics and concentrate too much on formal levels of political movement, in this case the trade unions, the government, and political parties. — The second finding is that there is an interrelated process that leads women workers to become activists. In the case of Alpena, there were many oppressive issues at work that angered the women: issues that relate to working conditions, such as minimum wage violation or insufficient health benefits, and issues that relate to respected values, such as the degrading treatment of workers by management or unkept promises by management. Outside the factory, there is oppression by the state that society, particularly the working class community, feels and reacts to. For women workers, there are also patriarchal values that some experience as oppressive. These factors interrelate with each other and generate the conditions that enable women workers to become activists. — In sum, this study provides support for the argument that Indonesian women workers today play an important role in labor politics because they have become a group that are able to manifest their resistance. In other words a politically conscious group of working class young women activists is in the making in contemporary Indonesia. By showing the importance of women workers in the rise of working class’ resistance in contemporary Indonesia, it is hoped that this study can help to improve women’s position within the independent labor movement and help to eradicate patriarchal obstacles within the movement.

Arifin, Lilianny S. 2005. “Housing needs of migrant women industrial workers in Surabaya: Insight from a Life Story Approach.” Habitat International (June): 215-226.  

This study examines housing needs of migrant women working on an industrial estate in Surabaya, Indonesia. Information was gathered through a combination of household surveys and life stories. This article presents findings generated through the life story research. Such research places the initiative for what is brought out with the story teller; involves personal interpretation of situations and events by both the teller and the researcher; and promotes cumulative generation of understanding by the latter, through recurrent interaction and continuous reflection.The approach helped clarify the main factors influencing the migrant workers’ perceived need for housing. The women try to adapt by combining values and responding to expectations and demands of two different worlds: the relatively traditional rural community which they came from and the modernized urban society to which they migrated. This process of adaptation is analyzed through three main roles with related norms and expected behaviors: those of rural–urban migrant, young single daughter, and independent income earner. The findings contradict a main message from similar research, namely, that housing choice is primarily determined by price, reflecting a prime concern of the women with satisfying basic material needs. Instead, the choice was found to be much more influenced by a desire to respect norms and behaviors to which the women were socialized at home without excluding themselves from exploiting new opportunities in their present urban environment.

Blackwood, Evelyn. 1997. “Women, Land, and Labor: Negotiating Clientage and Kinship in a Minangkabau Peasant Community.” Ethnology: 277-293.

One of the central dynamics shaping agrarian change, and one seldom highlighted, is the structure and ideology of kinship and clientage in peasant communities. This article examines the importance of kin ties in the maintenance of nonwage labor relationships in a wet-rice farming community in West Sumatra, Indonesia. In this village patron-client ties are primarily organized on the basis of matrilineal kin ties through and between women. Elite women and their client kin are both bound to and invested in a complex relation of land, labor, and obligations that supports the continued interdependence of landlord/tenant and helps keep agricultural wage labor from becoming the dominant relation of production in the village. (Sharecropping, matriliny, peasants, wage labor, Minnangkabau, Sumatra).

Caraway, Teri L. 2006. “Gendered Paths of Industrialization: A Cross-Regional Comparative Analysis.” Studies in Comparative International Development (March): 26-52.

This article both describes and explains gendered patterns of industrialization across 27 sectors and 10 countries in three regions. Contrary to common perceptions that women’s participation in manufacturing work is to be explained primarily by economic or cultural variables, I demonstrate the central role of an additional vari-able–the strength of unions–in delaying the entry of women into the manufacturing workforce. I argue that cross-national differences in gendered patterns of industrialization are intimately tied to the balance of employment in labor-intensive versus capital-intensive sectors, employment growth, fertility, and the strength of labor unions. Surprisingly, this study finds that supply variables have weak effects on feminization. Demand-side factors and the power of unions have stronger and more consistent effects on feminization than cultural factors that shape the supply characteristics of female labor.

Dowe, Iryna M., Nurasiah FakihSutan, and Williams S. Rowe. 2006. “A Study of Domestic Violence against Academic Working Wives in Medan.” International Social Work (January): 41-50.

This article focuses on a study conducted to identify the reported family violence against working women in Medan, Indonesia. Some intellectuals have questioned whether the social and economic ramifications of women in the workforce contribute to domestic violence. As more women enjoy higher socioeconomic status, tensions that result from the demands of traditional gender roles may increase. The study consisted of two focus group, each consisting of 12 women and led by two female researchers. The tape-recorded discussions lasted about three hours each. In-depth interviews with individual in the language preferred by the respondent formed the basis of the data collection. In contrast to typical anthropological studies, semi-structured interviewing techniques were applied. The findings revealed that the intensity and frequency of incidents of conjugal violence varied among the informants. Some reported being beaten, having dishes thrown at them, having their hair pulled and getting kicked. The findings also reported that women also experienced psychological abuse, including insults, ridicule and unfounded accusations.

Ford, Michele. 2008. “Women’s Labor Activism” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society (March): 510-515.

This article discusses labor activism among women in Indonesia. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, labor became a strong focus for middle-class feminists. This is the time when women’s groups began organizing campaigns around issues concerning women industrial workers and international labor migrants. But there has been an increase in women workers’ activism on their own behalf. International activists have helped working women in the country to achieve gender equality in the workplace, in the community and at home.

Gardener, Daisy. 2012. “Workers’ Rights and Corporate Accountability – The Move towards Practical, Worker-Driven Change for Sportswear Workers in Indonesia.” Gender & Development (March): 49-65.

Women workers across Asia and throughout the world continue to face long hours, low wages and discrimination when they try to organise into unions within garment and footwear factories. Millions of young women are making products for companies Nike and Adidas. Over the past decade, under considerable public pressure, these companies have developed standards on workers conditions for their supplier factories. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between sportswear companies’ policies and the actual conditions inside factories. This article explores a process in Indonesia from 2009 to 2011 which brought together Indonesian factories, international sportswear brands and Indonesian unions to develop a protocol in an attempt ensure that workers’ human rights are upheld inside factories. Women union leaders were instrumental in the development of this protocol and will be integral to the implementation of these new guidelines.

Johar, Meliyanni, and Rammohan. 2009. “The Determinants of Married Women’s Autonomy in Indonesia.” Feminist Economics (October): 31-55.

This paper investigates the determinants of married women’s autonomy in Indonesia using the 2000 Indonesian Family Life Survey 3 (IFLS3). It considers the role of kinship norms and the effect of labor force participation on married women’s autonomy. The measure of autonomy is based on self-reported answers to an array of questions relating to decision-making authority in the household. They include own-clothing, child-related and personal autonomy, physical mobility, and economic autonomy. The analysis examines if variations in women’s autonomy are due to the prevailing kinship norms related to marriage in the community. In keeping with the anthropological literature, the analysis finds that living in patrilocal communities reduces physical autonomy for married women, whereas living in uxorilocal communities improves personal and child-related decision-making autonomy. Estimation results show that labor force participation, higher educational attainment, and increases in household wealth all have positive effects on married women’s autonomy in Indonesia.

Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala. 2006. “Mainstreaming Gender in the Mines: Results from an Indonesian Colliery.” Development in Practice (April): 215-221.

The article talks about gender mainstreaming in the mining sector industry. If the sector aims for development then this traditionally masculine industry must adopt policies that favor gender equity. Justifications for gender mainstreaming are enumerated. Interviews revealed various difficulties that women employees face in the industry. Existing gender equations must be turned around to offer equal opportunities in the workplace.

McGregor, Katherine. 2012. “Indonesian Women, The Women’s International Democratic Federation and the Struggle for ‘Women’s Rights,’ 194601965.” Indonesia & the Malay World (July): 193-208.

This article examines the transnational links Indonesian women made with women abroad by means of participation in the WIDF (Women’s International Democratic Federation) from 1946–1965. Drawing on Indonesian women’s speeches at WIDF congresses, contributions to WIDF publications and documents from Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia, the Indonesian Women’s movement) national congresses the article argues that the WIDF provided an important political compass for Indonesian women on the political left and directly influenced the form and content of its campaign for women’s rights. At the same time Gerwani women were able to draw attention and attract support from the extensive membership of the WIDF for domestic challenges, which they positioned as connected to broader struggles against imperialism. With a rapidly rising membership Gerwani was assuming increased importance and influence in the WIDF by the early 1960s and had begun to shape the direction and causes of the WIDF.

Mee, Wendy. 2014. “Beyond the Personal in Sambas, Indonesia.” Critical Asian Studies (September): 405-432.

Sambas, a regency in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan Province, on the border with Sarawak (Malaysia), provides a distinctive borderlands perspective from which to evaluate the economic and social transformations that accompany Indonesian women’s labor mobility. Drawing on village surveys and case studies about women’s cross-border activities in Sambas, this article examines the complex intersection between women’s working lives and economic sectors, including those conventionally labeled formal, informal, subsistence, and capitalist. The increasing involvement of young Indonesian Malay women in labor migration has also fostered new marital and familial patterns, which may in turn generate further shifts within the organization of cross-border work and family in the future. These changes illuminate issues of agency and precedence that arise out of local economic histories and family patterns of labor and labor migration. This analysis of both continuities and transformations in women’s cross-border labor leads us to attend to women’s creative engagement with the opportunities and constraints they face in reaching their personal and economic aspirations. One opportunity, this study shows, was women’s proximity to an international border. This location they turned into an economic asset, one that harnessed the productive power of the border.

Mee, Wendy. 2015. “Work and Cosmopolitanism at the Border: Indonesian Women Labour Migrants.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (October): 2041-2060.

Crossing borders for work is commonly recognised as an important opportunity to enhance cross-cultural skills. Implicit here is the assumption that labour migration entails a level of cross-cultural receptivity as the basis for learning new skills etc.; a trait that in its expanded sense is also central to the discussion of cosmopolitanism. This paper explores the relationship between work and cosmopolitanism, enquiring into the influence of the concrete conditions of cross-border work on the potential for cosmopolitan engagement. The analysis focuses on four categories of cross-border work undertaken by Indonesian women from Sambas in West Kalimantan. The findings illuminate three work-related factors that shaped these women’s engagement with cross-border cultural and social differences that are arguably relevant to other cross-border workers: the type of work, the nature of workplace relations and women’s access to independent social spaces outside of work. These findings support the argument that our understanding of cosmopolitanism could be enriched by further study into the conditioning of cultural openness and critical reflexivity at work.

Mietzner, Marcus. 2013. “Fighting the Hellhounds: Pro-democracy Activists and Party Politics in Post-Suharto Indonesia.” Journal of Contemporary Asia (February): 28-50.

In the literature on post-Suharto Indonesia, an increasingly dominant stream has portrayed the political system as being hijacked by predatory elite interests associated with the fallen New Order regime. While such characterisations describe important elements of the post-1998 polity, they do not tell the full story. At the same time that patronage-driven career politicians have staked their claims in the newly democratic state, a large number of civil society activists also started to play an active role in formal politics. This article illustrates how human rights advocates, women activists and labour leaders have tried to promote their causes not from the margins of civil society, but from within the power centre of political institutions. To be sure, some activists-turned-politicians have failed in this effort, but others have initiated key pieces of legislation that led to ground-breaking reforms. In comparative terms, the article demonstrates that Indonesian activists have created an effective political niche for themselves, avoiding both the patterns of state co-optation so prevalent in South Korea and the anti-system attitudes of activist politicians in Malaysia.

Perlez, Jane. 2004. “Asian Maids Often Find Abuse, Not Riches, Abroad.” New York Times (June): 2-3.

Reports on the abuses suffered by poor Indonesian and Filipina women dispatched by government-licensed agencies as household help for the growing middle class in the Middle East and the rest of Asia. Physical and mental abuse inflicted on the maids by their employers; Case of Indonesian maid Nirmala Bonat.

Silvey, Rachel. 2003. “Spaces of Protest: Gendered Migration, Social Networks, and Labor Activism in West Java, Indonesia.” Political Geography (February): 129-155.

This article examines the gender geography of labor activism through a comparative investigation of two communities in West Java, Indonesia. Based on in-depth interviews and a survey of workers carried out in 1995, 1998, and 2000 in the two sites, it explores the place-specific meanings attached to migrants’ social networks and gender relations, and their roles in mediating the gendered patterns of labor protest in the two villages. Previous analyses of labor protest in Indonesia have occluded scales and processes that are critical to understanding how gender dynamics are linked to the geography of protest. By contrast, attention to the gender- and place-based contexts of women’s activism illustrates the complex interactions between migrants’ local interpretations of gender norms, social network relations, household roles, state gender ideology, and global neo-liberal restructuring. Through examining these interactions, gender is conceptualized as ontologically inseparable from the production of specific activist spaces, rethinking the uni-directional spatial logic and deterministic views of gender and place put forth in theories of the New International Division of Labor.

Suryomenggolo, Jafar. 2012. “Factory Employment, Female Workers’ Activism, and Authoritarianism in Indonesia.” Critical Asian Studies (December): 597-626.

 This article reads the text of the pembelaan (defense speech) written by Ida Irianti, a female union leader, to reflect on the twin issues of factory employment and female workers’ activism during the authoritarian regime in Indonesia in the 1980s. The pembelaan describes the factual conditions of workers toiling under the regime’s antilabor policy of exclusionary corporatism and reveals how the Indonesian working class embodies the narrative of class in their demands for social justice. More than just a conventional pembelaan—a document used for legal defense purposes in criminal courts—Ida Irianti’s pembelaan stands apart as a fine example of working-class literature in the context of the rapid industrialization Indonesia was then experiencing. Thus the document is comparable to other forms of writing by women workers in East Asia that were produced under repressive authoritarian regimes. Based on this reading, this article suggests the importance of Ida Irianti’s pembelaan as a social reference, with its micro-level perspective helping to deepen our understanding of Indonesian labor politics during the 1980s.

Thee, Khan Wie. 2009. “The Development of Labour-intensive Garment Manufacturing in Indonesia.” Journal of Contemporary Asia (November): 562-578.

Indonesia’s garment industry is a relatively young industry which only emerged as a factory activity around the mid-1970s. This was in response to an expanding domestic market and growing export opportunities. Before the 1970s garment production was largely conducted in small tailor shops all over the country. Since the mid-1980s to the Asian economic crisis of 1997-98 the garment industry has emerged as one of the most important export-orientated industries, generating increasing foreign exchange revenues and job opportunities for low-skilled, mostly women workers, because of its labour- intensive production process. After the Asian economic crisis, garment exports declined because of declining competitiveness in the face of strong competition from other developing countries, particularly China and Vietnam. Unfortunately, due to its relatively low international competitiveness, Indonesia’s garment industry was not able to take full advantage of the expiry of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement in early 2005 to expand and increase its exports.

Tjandraningsih, Indrasari. 2000. “Gendered Work and Labour Control: Women Factory Workers in Indonesia.” Asian Studies Review (June): 257-268.

Focuses on the nature of women’s work in the textile, garment and footwear (TGF) industry in Indonesia. Macro context of TGF industries in Indonesia; Characteristics of women workers in TGF industries; Social networks outside the factories; Impact of the financial crisis on labor.

Zulbahary, Thaufiek. 2013. “Indonesia: The Solidaritas Perempuan’s Experience in Increasing Women Migrant Workers’ Access to SRHR Information and Services.” ARROWs for Change (March): 12-14.

The article discusses the law protecting women migrant workers in Indonesia and the access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and service. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affair (MoFA), the law is useless in preventing violence and abuse against women. It mentions that Solidaritas Perpempuans (SP) is making their efforts to educate workers on their rights against violence through discussions and programs.

1994. “The America’s are Watching.” The Economist (May): 37.

Focuses on the Indonesian Workers’ Welfare Union’s responsibility for the violent labor unrest that gripped the Sumatran city of Medan in April, 1994. Muchtar Pakpahan, leader of the Indonesian Workers’ Welfare Union; Demonstrations over wages; 1993 murder of Marsinah, a female labor activist; Belief that confessions of those convicted of Marsinah’s murder were extracted under torture; Expectation that there will be more labor trouble.