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Jakarta faces collapse from social problems

Straits Times - January 11, 1999

Jakarta – This city is facing the prospect of buckling under the strain of a number of serious social problems resulting from sharp increases in the number of jobless people and a continuing influx of migrants, a government official has warned.

According to Sabar Sianturi, the chief of the Manpower Ministry's Jakarta office, growing numbers of the unemployed, coupled with the continued arrival of migrants from other parts of the country, would cause formidable problems unless the city administration took immediate action.

"On the one hand, the number of jobless is expected to continue to rise, while on the other hand more and more people from other cities and islands will continue to come here in search of a livelihood," a Jakarta Post report on Saturday quoted him as saying on Thursday.

Mr Sianturi said that, according to data compiled by his office, the number of unemployed people in the city was thought to be around 825,000. He said the actual figure could be much higher. He also said that although official data put Jakarta's population at 9.6 million, the true figure could be double that.

Mr Sianturi said that around 60 per cent of the city's actual population had no permanent jobs or were unemployed, while last month alone, 300,000 migrants from other cities arrived in the capital in search of work. "Now most intersections in the capital are swarming with beggars and street singers and the crime rate in the city is on the rise," he said.

He admitted that massive job losses resulting from the ongoing economic crisis and rising prices of basic commodities had left many people facing destitution. "The situation is like a ticking timebomb. It could explode at any time over the coming months..." he said, adding that rioting could be sparked by mounting frustration over the absence of signs of an economic recovery in the near future.

Mr Sianturi urged the city administration to take action to help minimise the worst affects of economic hardship and unemployment. He said that the government should act to stop the influx of migrants.