Labour Circulation and Socioeconomic Transformation: The Case of East Java

Labour Circulation and Socioeconomic Transformation: The Case of East Java

Hugo, Graeme

Labour Circulation and Socioeconomic Transformation: The Case of East Java, Indonesia, 1999. By Ernst Spaan.


Adelaide University

Labor migration remains understudied but is rapidly growing in both scale and social, political and economic significance in less developed nations. Many such nations are developing policies and programs relating to labor migration with little or no empirical information about the causes and effects of that movement to guide them. The present study relates to one of the world’s largest labor surplus countries and an important global source of international contract labor, Indonesia. It is in many ways an exemplary study of the complex relationship between population mobility on the one hand and economic development and social change on the other. It employs a mix of levels of analysis both micro and macro, it utilizes information collected using a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, it integrates internal and international migration, it is founded on a sound, well developed theoretical framework and it takes full account of the contextual factors which influence mobility and are influenced by it.

There is much to interest the student of migration and development in this book. Although it is strongly focused on these rural communities in the province of East Java in Indonesia the theoretical underpinnings, the methods of data collection employed and the findings are of much wider relevance. Chapter Two, for example, presents an excellent synthesis of theoretical development relating to the causes and effects of migration. An eclectic approach is adopted throughout the book which makes use of a range of theories although they are tied together in a well articulated theoretical framework. These theoretical elements include the new neo-classical economies, structuralization, historical-structuralist approaches, migration networks, the role of intermediaries in the migration process and cultural explanations.

Chapter Three on Research Methods is also of considerable interest to the migration scholar. The author adopts a mixed method strategy of research to ensure that a comprehensive picture emerges of the migration situation in the study communities. He utilizes the limited secondary data and uses it within limitations, he carries out household surveys, key informant interviews and careful observation of migration and its impacts.

There is a good attempt to identify and evaluate conceptual influences on population mobility and taking full account of historical forces. A wide all encompassing definition of mobility is employed so that full account is taken of commuting and circulation of various types. Policy influences, both direct and indirect are assessed.

The study uses the household as its basic unit of analysis although it does not do so to the exclusion of other approaches so that individual, community and wider levels of analysis are included. Unlike many mobility studies full account is taken of the influence of social class. The analysis of the role of intermediaries in the migration process is excellent and points to the crucial roles played by their gate keepers even though most migration theory excludes them. Due weight is given to the significance of culture in shaping both the scale and nature of mobility as well as its impact. The role of networks in initiating and sustaining mobility is well brought out.

The book is a well produced and highly readable account. It was produced as a doctoral thesis and is extremely well documented. It has a very comprehensive bibliography across several languages. A feature is the weaving of case studies of individual migrants into the narrative which is a powerful way of portraying the experience of the migration process. The study is well illustrated and substantiated with tables, maps and diagrams. The arguments are well put and the author has a pleasant and easy to read style.

In short, this monograph is strongly recommended to scholars of migration and development in less developed countries. It is based on meticulous fieldwork and a thorough search of relevant Indonesian, Dutch and English language literature and a synthesis of that literature.

Copyright Center for Migration Studies Summer 2001

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