City For Whom?

This paper will look at the development of the informal sector and slum areas in urban areas in relation to the increasing population in urban areas as well as responses from urban policies and planning.

It can be seen that although urbanization is something that is inevitable (as a result of the process of reducing employment opportunities in rural areas) and even though the informal sector has an important role

in this process, the city is a hostile place for informal sector actors, especially street vendors, as well as residents of urban slum areas. It can also be seen that amidst repressive policies such as “close doors” and eviction policies, the urban informal sector and slum areas will still not stop growing.

A world that is increasingly becoming a city

The year 2007 marked an important change in world demographics. For the first time that year, it is estimated that the urban population will outnumber the rural population. Scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia University even cite the date: May 23, 2007, as the date when the world’s urban population outnumbered the rural population for the first time (Wimberley and Kulinowski 2007). The “Limits of Growth” report, as quoted by Mike Davis (2004) stated that in the 1950s, there were only 86 cities with a population of more than one million people. In 2015 it is estimated that 550 cities in the world will have a population of more than one million people.

In detail, a report from the United Nations states that the urban population will increase from only 13% in 1900, to 29% in 1950, and reach 49% in 2005. The same report predicts that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas (United Nations 2005).

The situation in Indonesia is not much different. In 2005, it was estimated that the Indonesian population living in urban areas reached 40% of the total population, reaching 107 million or 48.1% of the entire Indonesian population. In fact, in 1950 only one-eighth or approximately 12.4% of the Indonesian population lived in urban areas. urban. Of the total urban population, 23% live in slums. In 2001, UN Habitat noted that Indonesia experienced urban population growth of 4% per year and slum area growth of 1% per year (UN Habitat 2008). Perhaps it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the growth was evenly distributed or occurred in many cities, but in Indonesia, this growth is concentrated in only a few cities. In 2007 it was recorded that several cities had a population of over one million, mainly concentrated on the island of Java, more specifically Jakarta and its surrounding areas (Bekasi, Depok, Tangerang). Other cities with a population of over one million are Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, Semarang, Palembang, Makassar (Brinkhoff 2008)

Implications of Urbanization

Many implications will arise from this growth. The most obvious implication is the increasing need for basic facilities and infrastructure, such as clean water, schools, health facilities, and housing. The phenomenon of urbanization in the area around Jakarta has led to the emergence of various housing complexes. For those who are less fortunate, the choice falls on slum areas such as riverbanks or on the outskirts of railroads, or live cramped in other slum areas. Often this unplanned city growth is not matched by an increase in basic facilities and infrastructure as before, so that the urban poor often experience a shortage of these basic facilities.

Migration to cities, both circular and permanent, is based on the desire of the perpetrators to get better jobs and income in urban areas, as well as decreased employment opportunities in rural areas both as a result of shrinking agricultural land and as a result of developments in agricultural technology that reduce dependence on humans. Studies on urbanization in the 1970s showed this tendency, although these studies also showed the importance of a prospective migrant having a network (usually kinship or friendship) from their hometown first to be able to get a job in the city, those who do not have it is these networks that then become prostitutes, or tramps (see for example the collection of articles in (Kuntjoro-Jakti 1986).

Urban Informal Sector Growth

Another phenomenon that accompanies the growth of the urban population is the increase in informal sector actors. This condition arises because employment opportunities in the formal sector (especially the industrial sector) cannot keep pace with population growth in urban areas.

In the recent case of Indonesia, this condition has been exacerbated by the declining performance of the industrial sector, especially the textile and textile product (TPT) industry, which absorbs a large number of workers. An illustration of this problem can be seen in the decline in the textile industry in Akatiga’s research on the declining performance of textile industry centers in Indonesia, namely the Regency and City of Bandung and the City of Cimahi in West Java.

There are two patterns of impact from the layoffs:

Layoffs led to an increase in the number of actors in the informal sector. On the one hand, this sector is relatively flexible in absorbing labor, but on the other hand most types of businesses in this sector cannot provide a decent living and are vulnerable to shocks from both internal and external actors. The small food trade sector, for example, is more easily hit by an increase in basic food prices.

Termination of employment causes migration back to the village, while job opportunities in the village itself are also limited other than as farm laborers or workers in the small business sector. For example, Cikancung village officials stated that there was an increase in the number of poor people due to the return of laid-off workers to the village, while job opportunities in the village itself were limited to work as agricultural laborers or laborers in non-machine weaving businesses. (Field Notes 2007) )

Various studies have shown the role of the informal sector, namely mainly as a job creator, absorption of labor that is not absorbed in the formal sector, and even as a liaison from the formal sector (for example, hawkers and roadside stalls are places to sell formal sector products). such as cigarettes, packaged drinks, as well as magazines and newspapers (Ramli 1992).Portes and Hoffman (2003), as quoted by Davis (2004) show that informal sector actors can no longer be simply associated with poverty, because some of them are business owners who independent.

How is the City (Government) Response in Facing the Informal Sector?

The policy of the government of cities in Indonesia, especially big cities like Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung, first of all, is to apply a “closed door” policy for newcomers, especially those who are considered to have no capital or job security. This policy is carried out by imposing quite complicated requirements to obtain a KTP, for example, carrying out sweeping of enclaves that are considered slums in urban areas.

But contrary to this policy of closing their doors, cities around the world, especially in developing countries, are seeing the urban informal sector continue to grow and are struggling to maintain their existence. Street vendors are primarily an informal sector that is at the forefront of the battle with the government. This is because their presence is more visible to the naked eye compared to other types of work in the informal sector (eg house help or home industry), because these street vendors carry out their activities in public places such as sidewalks and city parks. In various cities, from Tanzania in Africa to Jakarta in Indonesia to Mexico City in Mexico, in the midst of forced evictions and relocations, these street vendors put up resistance, both secretly and openly, to be able to continue to survive and run their business.

There is no exact numerical information about the number of people who have experienced evictions in Indonesian cities. However, news about the eviction of street vendors and residents of slum areas is quite common news that adorns newspapers in Indonesia. A report from an international agency that specifically deals with evictions and urban housing issues, COHRE, notes that in the period 2003-2006, in Jakarta alone there were 11 cases of evictions that affected tens of thousands of people (Center on Housing Rights and Eviction 2007). It seems that for most city governments, there is only one (official) way to deal with the problems of the informal sector and slums that have emerged in cities: evict.

Nonetheless, both the informal sector actors and the slum dwellers are resisting the government’s eviction efforts. These efforts are carried out both through open resistance and conflict as well as hidden efforts. A number of studies have looked at various forms of resistance among the urban poor in facing evictions: through strategies of non-compliance (Tripp 1997), taking advantage of the state’s weaknesses, developing individual and collective strategies to deal with the threat of eviction (Clark 1988). Nonetheless, these studies generally agree that eviction is a short-term solution and will not be effective in eliminating the informal sector or slums in urban areas.

A number of city governments are aware of this and are trying other approaches in dealing with the informal sector and slum areas in urban areas. This method, for example, is taken by involving them in urban planning. For example, in Durban, South Africa, Lund and Skinner (2004) note that city governments have tried to involve the informal sector in urban planning and planning.

According to the author’s observation, street vendors also appear in big cities in developed countries. On the street corners of New York City, there are tents selling various items, ranging from bags, shoes, t-shirt souvenirs, fruit, or newspapers and magazines. At the subway stations there are various street singers and a number of people display their wares in the form of used magazines, only US$ 1 for train passengers to read. Perhaps at the next station, the magazines will be thrown away again to be picked up by other used magazine dealers. In the city of Melbourne, everyone can register to get a license to sing on the street for 12 months. The presence of street traders and musicians actually adds to the splendor of city centers. Perhaps one thing that distinguishes the street vendors in these cities from the city of Jakarta, for example, is that the tents are neater and the sidewalks are wide enough, so that both street vendors and pedestrians can jointly use the sidewalks.

Slum Demolition and the Informal Sector: Cities for Whom?

Although the importance of the role of the informal sector in absorbing labor is acknowledged, the fact that the actions of the city government seem to contradict the recognition of the importance of this sector’s role. Likewise, city planners still view this sector ambiguously. For most urban planners and policy makers, informal sector actors, especially street vendors, and urban slum areas, are a disturbance to the beauty and orderliness of the city. This modernist view is often in line with the views of the upper and middle class of society. This is shown, for example, when Governor Tjokropanolo relaxed regulations against street vendors in Jakarta in the 1970s, this policy was responded negatively by the Jakarta middle class who had their own vehicles. These circles compared the era of Governor Tjokropanolo’s policies with Governor Ali Sadikin’s policies as an era that was more disciplined, clean, and organized (Jellinek and Asian Studies Association of Australia. 1991). Because these street vendors generally come from outside the city in question, they are often considered to have no sense of belonging to the beauty or cleanliness of the city (Urban and Regional Development Institute n.a). In Durban, South Africa, Popke and Ballard (2004) stated that the increasing number of street vendors on the streets of Durban has increased the anxiety and worry of city residents, especially among white residents, because their presence is seen as damaging the image of an orderly and beautiful Eurocentric city. Such views, held by the government and urban planners as well as other city residents, give rise to the impression that street vendors are not considered part of a city.

Maybe it’s time for city planners and policy makers to think about other alternatives in looking at the problem of street vendors and slum areas. This alternative view, among others, is expressed by Sandercock (1998) that urban planning should be able to recognize the voices of different groups in society. We can speculate that the root solution to the problem of the growth of slum areas and street vendors lies in the countryside (and thus the closed-door policy put in place to prevent people from migrating from the villages to the cities), but it is still important to recognize that cities belong to groups of people who different. Informal sector actors, including street vendors, are an inseparable part of a city.


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