The Dual Society

Bus fares within the city of Jakarta are Rp.200-Rp.300. Meals at a "Warung", a street stall, are served at the price of Rp.500- Rp,1500. The monthy wage of a housemaid, who is provided with light, fuel, water and her own room, is around Rp. 100,000. A shop assistant at the Sogo department store is said to earn Rp.150,000 monthly and a chauffeur Rp.200,000-Rp.300,000. These are reasonable figures at the realistic conversion rate of 1 yen to the rupia. The official rate, however, is 1¥=15Rp.


Now look at the following figures. A 330ml can of Coke is sold at Rp.1,000,  a kilo of beef at Rp.20,000, a 1000ml carton of milk is Rp.2,800, a box of Kleenex tissue Rp.3,000, a Big Mac at McDonald's Rp.3,600. These commodities are what foreign residents need to keep their life styles, but are quite expensive considering the former figures which illustrate how ordinary people live. Other than foreign residents, who get the same salaries here as in their own country, or sometimes more, only the upper class people, who account for only 1.5-2%of the total population, can afford to buy them. It means only a limited number of people can shop at big department stores or fashionable shopping malls.


The upper class people are politicians, senior public servants, military officers, entrepreneurs, doctor, lawyers, and directors of large companies owned by the nation or financed with foreign capital. In contrast with this, there are farmers, vendors and employees of small businesses at the bottom who have to fight for survival every day of their lives and have to support their families on a monthly wage of less than Rp.50,000. Although every area prescribes the minimum wage (for example Rp.2,800 per day in Jakarta), it is often hard to enforce. 


The number of middle class people is increasing, but the dual society still exists here in Indonesia and the two societies are clearly divided. The money which could support an average family for a month is easily spent on only one dinner at a luxurious restaurant by an upper class family.


#57 Parkway Vol.6 No.6 December 1992