Super (Shadow) Economy

Energy, Going to the Market, Wealth

Indonesia is exploding. By the end of this year, Indonesia will become one of the world’s 15 richest countries, whose annual GDPs exceed $1 trillion. And it has the resources to keep growing: its 17,000 paradisiacal islands harbor deep petroleum reserves, vast jungles and perfect, white beaches.

What Indonesia’s economic boom lacks is Indonesians. Although this is the world’s fourth largest population, most of the people working and making their fortunes in Indonesia’s new industries are foreigners. That’s because, according to the OECD, “[Indonesian] university graduates often lack the necessary skills employers need”. Meanwhile, a recent World Bank survey of employers claims that new hires in Indonesia demonstrate lamentable “thinking, technical and behavioral skills”.

Yet Indonesians have managed to make it through colonial oppression, dictatorship, religious terrorism, and a very hostile natural environment (Indonesia is perched on top of so many volcanoes that geographers call this part of the globe “the ring of fire”). Now having perfected their survival skills over decades of human and environmental assault, many Indonesians must find their way to safety along by feeling along the edges of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, by carving out niches and handholds in an increasingly glass-and-steel skyscraper landscape.

This blog series explores the unlikely, invented professions that now fill the cracks of uneven development in Indonesia.

Next: Rooms of Hysteria in Yogyakarta