It's amazing what people do to make money in this city. Anywhere between 11 and 15 million people live in Jakarta, depending on who is giving the estimate. Part of the reason the figure is so fluid is due to the difficulty in obtaining official statistics, and people travelling to Jakarta from other provinces for work. About 10% of those people are unemployed. Which equates to somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people. In one city. The population of the last city I lived in. Hard to comprehend.
Of those employed, a small percentage are earning an exorbitant amount. The divide between the wealthy and the poor is immense. The minimum wage was recently increased by the government here to approximately $160 per month. Under $40 a week. Or less than $6 to survive each day. For those who do get that much. Many don't. Not only do people rent a 'house' (tiny room without furniture) and eat with that money, but frequently they are also supporting extended family either here or in their provinces.
It is incredible watching what unemployed people will do to earn money, any money, to survive. One of the 'jobs' that I am fascinated by is that of a 'jockey'. People line up along the side of the road, during the peak morning and evening traffic. Frequently they have a baby or young child attached to them in a sling. They hold their one or two fingers in the air, and wait. To be picked up by a stranger, who needs extra passengers so that they can travel in the transit lane in order to beat the crazy traffic.
We have occasionally picked up a 'jockey', and I find I become quite 'anxious' as I wait for my driver to select someone. Why that person? Why not the guy next to him? What if they don't get picked up, and don't have enough money for their children today? What about the Mum who looks to be about 18? The baby so tiny. The young boy?
When you slow down, there are a number of people close to the car who assume it is they you are stopping for. That they were chosen. But it's him, not you. I'm sorry. And my stomach wrenches. People oscillating between hope and hopelessness as the minutes progress, people plucked out around them. Them still standing, though the arm not raised quite as high.
If they do get a job for the morning, they have no real idea where they will end up. They sit in the front seat, completely still and silent. At some point they are not needed anymore. The car stops. They are handed the equivalent of about $2 and they alight. Then they find their way back. Either to fill in the day before trying again in the late afternoon, or head back home. I have been told that sadly many do not receive the full $2, handing a portion to a third party who 'organises' a group of jockeys.
Each time I gaze at these people, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, belly full, driver weaving his way through...I wonder. Why are they out there, whilst I'm in here? My boys given every privilege. Their children so often hungry, and sick because they don't have proper medical care. Too often uneducated.
Can I encourage you, as you read this, to give thanks? Now look around you, and give thanks again. And as you eat your breakfast, go to work, shop for groceries, take your kids to school...okay, yes, you understand.
Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful.
- An incredible sunset from our balcony. Whilst listening to the 'call to prayer', reading our bibles together.
- Farewelling gorgeous people. Special friendships, built quickly.
- The offer, and acceptance, of another year in Jakarta.
- Going on a Field Trip with my boy, who was so excited to have me there.
- New arrivals, and the promise of new friendships.
- Dugongs. Evidence of God's incredible imagination.
- One of my boys saying he didn't want to change swim lessons if he couldn't be with his brother.
- News from Australia that we have been waiting for!
- Big brothers piggy backing little brothers.
- Listening to Keith Jarrett as I write.