restricted access Chapter 5 - Involuntary Voluntary Service: Gender and Social Welfare in Crisis and Reform
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Chapter 5 I nvoluntary V oluntary S ervice Gender and Social Welfare in Crisis and Reform It is good if a woman is active in the society. However, she should not neglect her tasks in her family. —Pak Roto, Bantul I n d o n e s i a ’ s N e w O r d e r governmentinitiatedcommunitybased social welfare programs that were designed to mobilize support for the government’s domestic policies and agenda while minimizing the cost to the state. Women were the primary targets of these programs, and although their participation was formally voluntary, in fact, their time, labor, energy, and other resources were conscripted for these programs. After the Asian economic crisis and subsequent political reform, the association of these programs with the repressive New Order initially led to their decline amid implementation of other forms of welfare provision. Ten years after the crisis, however, New Order programs experienced a revival, but with modified emphases and gender politics. This chapter analyzes gendered social welfare activities and programs before and after the demise of the New Order government, illustrating with examples from the two rural Javanese villages. 162 Chapter 5 We explore how official gender ideology serves the state and determines the parameters of women’s power and authority in the family and in the larger community. Crisis and Its Aftermath In 1997, more than thirty years of economic growth were abruptly reversed when krismon, or Indonesia’s version of the Asian economic crisis, hit the country. Although the underlying causes stemmed from a combination of factors that started long before Indonesia fell victim to the Asian economic crisis, the immediate financial crisis was coupled with severe El Niño–induced drought and the lowest international oil prices in decades. The ensuing sharp reduction in the production of food staples, particularly rice, and a major decline of export revenue, led to rapidly declining living standards and political and social unrest ( Bappenas 1999; Feridhanusetyawan 1998; World Bank 1999). There were major increases in poverty, unemployment, hunger, and malnutrition. Before the crisis in 1996, the official figure for the population under poverty was 11 percent, or 22.5 million people (Oey-Gardiner 1998, 80). An estimate shows that in 1997–1998, the crisis led to an additional 60 to 70 million (30 percent of the population) living under the poverty line in Indonesia. The crisis led to labor displacement and a sharp increase in the unemployment rate. Those who were employed had to work longer hours to compensate for their rapidly declining purchasing power, and many households had to mobilize all their resources of labor and capital to survive (World Bank 1999, 9). The gap between the rich and the poor became more pronounced, social jealousy was rampant, ethnic and religious conflicts multiplied, and the control of the central government was weakened, so that by the spring of 1998, the New Order government of Suharto, which had held power for more than three decades, was toppled. Involuntary Voluntary Service 163 Pushed by international agencies, an emergency social safetynet program was launched to help the poor and to reduce social and political unrest. The main elements of the program were to provide staple food at affordable prices for the poor, create employment and income maintenance for needy families, and ensure provision of basic social services such as health care and education. The enhanced new social safety-net programs were designed to incorporate the involvement of civil society and local communities into their implementation and monitoring stages. This form of state welfare provision was a new undertaking in Indonesia. Like most other developing countries, the Indonesian state under the New Order government did not directly provide state welfare payment programs for the unemployed, retired, elderly , children, or other groups targeted by safety-net programs. Retirement benefits, unemployment, or disability compensation was not available for the majority of people. There were limited social welfare assistance programs, but these were accessible to only a tiny minority of disadvantaged groups. Social welfare provision relied on the services of extended families, neighborhood associations , and community networks. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to interpret the lack of a formal welfare state to mean that the state had no involvement in its provision. Despite the minimal availability of state-directed welfare provision programs, the New Order government intervened to create and reinforce forms of community-based social welfare activities and networks that appeared on the surface to mobilize voluntary labor and services but, in fact...


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