Structural Adjustment Program and affect to the Gender in Indonesia

By Harli Muin

Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), a package of a neoliberal of economic policies for developing counties, has been implemented in Indonesia since 1980s and the same time Indonesia has accepted as the member of World Bank (Susanto, 1992). Those policies must be followed in order to qualify for World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and help them make debt repayments (Susanto, 1992). Moreover, Indonesia had 80 % of Indonesia oil export( Pincus and Rizal 1998), and Indonesia has been heavily dependent upon foreign export, and the IMF and World Bank loans policies must focus on increasing exports, reducing spending on social programs, and privatizing public services such as water and electricity. However, those neo-liberal policies have a negative effect to the gender relation especially in vulnerable populations. Many scholars said that changing Indonesian policies such boosting exports, raising domestic savings, reducing social expenditures and reforming institutions in supporting those policies are the gender blind.  The removal of subsidies of social spending in Indonesia is directly affecting family spending, more office hours for women, and increasing infant mortality.

As poor countries, many people depend on subsides, and diminishing subsides can have a major impacts to the community especially in gender relation of men and women in a family level. In other words, reducing public spending on gasoline, health care and education, is triggering increasing of some cost of basic needs such as transportations, health treatments and foods. Since the food cost is expensive, mothers must adjust their family budget in order to afford the food price. As consequence, health care of spending is decreased instead of food spending. Fathers in Indonesian culture are placed as a leader in the household, however, mothers are spending more time concerned about the family than father (Switta, 2012). For example, when mothers are back at home, they are spending more time to care for their sons, daughters and preparing foods. While fathers are spending their time in other activities, sometime is not dealing with family (Switta, 2012).

When mother working hard carries out those responsibilities, this may affect to marriage-relation of fathers and mothers. The mothers also may forget their health and body fitness. It is more likely for the mother that gets sick. It is very frequently a father blaming a mother due to the lack of being healthy. This can cause disharmony between mothers and fathers in marriage relationship. In this case, father can make those arguments in the court to separate their marriage relationship. This reason happens frequently in court of Indonesia during separation process.

Politicians and public officers are blind to take account of the effect of reducing public budget in relationship between fathers and mothers. Reducing budget on education, health care and other social programs is terrible. Sondakh (2006) said that it is likely blind policy and is real a created discrimination against women. Sondakh (2006) argued that discriminations against women have occurred in many forms such in political, economic and education. She added that the school dropout rates for women are higher percentage than the men. This is because the family budget that has been reduced and they could not afford education fees and books. In addition, the subsidies in junior and senior high school have been cut off, and the education fees are higher. It went up three times compared with the subsidies period.

Working in informal labor is the only one choice for the mothers in order to afford family budget. During economic crisis, it is hard to find a job in formal sectors and it is only informal sector jobs that are offered. Those working conditions are not the same as the formal sectors in context of economic and social benefit. For example, in informal sector salary is lower than in the formal sector. In the formal sector, employees do get a social benefit such a health insurance and social pension, and while in informal sector usually do not. Usually working in an informal sector is low paying jobs. Indonesian Statistical Bureau (2005) reported on national economic survey that more men are working informal sector than the women. Moreover, men receive higher salary than the women. This is because women that have lower bargain in negotiation salary and many women work in lower level of job. Switta (2013) said that inequality of men and women salary and job level is because company tends to limit women office hours and women have low education levels. For example, taxi company in Indonesia does not allow woman working during the night because it can increase risky and costly for the operational cost of company such insurance and security.

When family budget is reduced, the mother has to work extra hours. Since the mothers have additional responsibility, she must have additional jobs. The mothers must extend their working hours more than eight hours per-day. This is a real struggle for the mother with the obligation to nurture, educate, and raise children. Since the mother has a double responsibility, her office work increases excess of the normal working hours. In addition, extra works increase the mother’s time spent working. For example, when she arrives at home, the mother must have to care for children, fathers and cooking, and this is likely to double work.

As consequence, women in Indonesia do not have as much time as the men to spend in political arena. Even the Indonesian regulation on public election was providing a 30 percent-quota for women seats in parliament; however, women did not meet those quotas in legislative election of 2004. It has a fact that only 12 percent of people in parliament from 550 parliament seats available in 2004 are women (KPU, 2004). It also is a reality faced by women to improve their capacity in political context and struggling discrimination against them, and their own dignity.   They have less time to do political activity, and they have less time to meet in building their own organizational strength (Sondakh, 2004).

The global crisis at the beginning of 2009 in Indonesia has severely affected the number of migrant workers that had dramatically increased in abroad (National Women Commission of Human Rights, 2009). More women had become migrant workers, and they have left their husband and home country in order to fulfill the family needs. Abroad, they are working in factory as domestic helpers and housekeeping workers. During the economic crisis, migrant workers overseas were still the main source of income for Indonesian revenues and for their families. The destination countries are Hong Kong, Middle East, Singapore, and Malaysia. The amount of income gained from these workers had much contribution for family economy during this time when it was hard to find jobs.

Kiara (2011) reported that women have contributed up to 48% for the household income each month. The contribution was also depending on the level of education, the condition of environment and access to information and public facilities. It was shown how women in the coastal, rural and urban area have strategic opportunity to change their family condition (Kiara, 2011).

Dreaming for better life with family for the near future is main purpose of migrant workers to work abroad. Migrant workers are not only spent their time to working hard, they are also separating from their family for years and years. They are also victim of violence. More recently, Indonesia of Human Right Commission on anti-discrimination against women (2009) reported that many Indonesian migrant workers were raped in Middle East such Saudi Arabia. In February 2010, there were 2,679,536 migrant workers, who were worked in informal sectors, and most of them were women. There were more than 120 raped cases, and 100 cases of trafficking in the same time (National Women Commission of Human Rights, 2009).

Infant and maternal mortality rates are indirectly affected by the reduced family budget.. Especially in many pregnant mothers, they have to reduce their frequencies to consult their pregnancy to medical doctor. Those problems lead to increasing the infant and maternal mortality rates (National Women Commission of Human Rights, 2009). Not only frequencies are visiting to health clinics reducing, but also mothers are eating low quality of protein food. On the pregnant mothers, they are strongly recommended to choose a high quality of food, and they cannot afford high quality of food. Even in family level, foods are recommended based on the age of family members. Food and care to their pregnancy are very important factors that can prevent a complication in giving birth.

Many mothers are unaware to check their pregnancy, and doctor could not detect the high risk factor that pregnant mothers may face. It is very often the risks that can be detected when mothers giving birth and it can be fatal and deadly. According to Wibowo (1993) that pregnant mothers did not care their pregnancy, and most of cases are caused by lack of facility, and also health care is expensive and they cannot afford the price.

Institute of Health Demography of Survey (2006) recorded that child mortality  is higher than before the monetary and economic crisis.  The survey found that the infant mortality rate was recorded at 307 cases per 100,000 people.  Indonesia infant mortality has among the highest in Southeast Asia in 2006. This survey finding also reported that every year  has 8784 mother died in giving her birth. In addition, the survey also found that 50 percent of Indonesian women have anemia and 18 percent of protein-energy deficiency.  Indonesia of Statistical Bureau (2005) also recorded that 25.8 percent of babies born has nutritional deficiency. This number is predicted in the years to come will be growing up.

Dealing with that problem above, I propose several policy recommendations. First is reducing mother’s burden by changing social policy. The policy may take in account increasing budget of social services, providing protection for women especially in poor people and vulnerable groups. Since women and men are different in context of the needs, the budget of social program also may take a consideration about women needs.  I

Second strengthening the Department of Women Empowering is important. Since many protest about improper recipients of social subsidies, Women Empowering Department must be enabled to identify which women should get subsidies and which women should not. This is the need of better data collection. It may be in electronically recorded database that is better to make sure the aid that is going to proper persons.

Third, the government must increase public participation especially the women in public decision-making. The participation might be started from the draft step of public policy until its completion. Public participation is not enough, raising public awareness is also important, and obligated government is to fulfill raising public awareness about gender issues by providing training, and public campaign. As consequence, government should raise the public budget dealt with the gender program.

The fourth, the group in Indonesia should continuously work on women’s emancipation across the world in all levels and aspects including politics, to speak up calling for justice and sustainability of livelihoods, actively involved in policy making and decision-making. It is very important to urge the State, corporations and international financial institutions to take responsibility of the changes of policies and their implications which violate human rights. Because capitalism and neoliberalism have failed to deliver security of livelihoods, they should be responsible.







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Kiara. 2011. International women’s day: Women against primitive accumulative regim, apress release. Jakarta, Indonesia.

Maas, T. L. (2009). Kesehatan ibu dan anak: Persepsi budaya dan dampakkesehatannya. Fakultas Kesehatan Masyarakat, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan.

National Women Commission of Human Rights. (2009). It is not only at home:Women’s’ experience of violence in unequal-power relation. Jakarta, Indonesia

Pincus, J and Rizal, R.(1998) Indonesia: From showcase to basket case. Cambridge journal of economics, 22, 723-734

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yang dihadapi di lapangan. Makalah yang dibawakan pada Seminar ” Wanita dan Kesehatan”, Pusat Kaajian Wanita FISIP UI, Jakarta.




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