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4. Surviving the Depression

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Chapter Summary

The Depression began to affect Indonesia in 1930, with the colony only slowly recovering from around the middle of 1936. It devastated export crop earnings, with severe effects on a colonial economy reliant on them. The collapse of export crops impacted heavily on those dependent on wage labour. Workshops in Surabaya that made and repaired the machinery for the sugar factories and plantations received fewer orders and were forced to dismiss workers. With reduced economic activity state revenue dried up. In order to balance its budget the colonial government sharply reduced both administrative workers and workers in the state-owned industries. The State Railways and the Pawnshop Service, two of the largest state-owned industries, reduced their workforces by one-third between 1930 and 1937. Tens of thousands of skilled and unskilled wage earners lost their jobs in both the public and the private sectors.

Keywords: 1930 Salaries Commission Report; colonial economy; depression years; Indonesian labour union leaders; Indonesian study club; labour office; Moestika; Surabaya workers; wage labour; Yogyakarta-based pawnshop workers union



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