Life on the minimum wage…

Blogs, Ethical trading & business, Labour rights, Women's rights article written on the 23 Apr 2010

Photo: OxfamAUS

English / Bahasa

Producing sports shoes in the factory I earn about $140 (AUD) per month. Most of this income (80%) I hand over to my mother so that she can cover our household expenses and schooling for my younger brother and sisters. I don’t have any personal savings. My family that is my savings! My mother makes savings, but that is to pay the rent for our house, mostly. The 20% of my income that I keep for myself is spent mostly on transport to and from the factory and, of course, for my food.

My older brother now has a family of his own to look after. This means that my mother and I have to take primary responsibility for supporting my two younger siblings. My younger sister is living here with us near Jakarta. She is still in junior high school. I also have a younger sister who stayed on in Sumatra after the rest of us moved to Jakarta. She was living with my grandmother, but since my grandmother passed away a few years ago, she now lives in student rental accommodation (we call it kos). This costs quite a lot of money.

Since my younger sister has now finished senior high school I’ve asked her ‘What do you want to do? Would you like to go to university or to work?’

She said ‘I would like to work first you know, so then if I do go to university I can cover the costs myself.’ I asked her why she wouldn’t allow me to just save up and pay his costs, but she said she couldn’t be such a burden. She is really considerate of me like that; she really worries about what condition I’m in.

Since the beginning of the year my younger sister has started working for a news agency in Sumatra. We hope that in a month’s time she will have enough income to cover his own costs. It’s been hard up till now because my younger sister has a physical disability, which makes it difficult for her to walk or carry out physical work.

It’s quite funny when the time comes each month for me to send money to my younger sister – it’s a real trial. The thing is I don’t have that long a break from work and I’m so scared to be even a minute late because my supervisor can be very angry. This means I have to literally sprint to the bank where I can transfer the money! I run there as fast as I can and then stand in a line looking at my watch every two seconds freaking out that I’ll be late. Then as soon as I transfer the money I run all the way back to the factory. It’s exhausting!

Ask Sewani…

Sewani is happy to answer your questions about her experiences of life from the factory floor. But please remember Sewani often works long hours and doesn’t have much free time so she may take a few days to respond.

Related Indonesian entry – Bahasa Indonesia

Menjalani hidup dengan upah minimum

Bekerja di pabrik sepatu pendapatan saya kira2 Rp 1.117.245. 80% dari gaji tersebut saya serahkan kepada Ibu, biar Ibu yang mengatur untuk keperluan rumah dan untuk sekolah adik.

Tabungan? Saya pribadi tidak punya. Keluarga saya itulah tabungan saya. Ibu saya menabung, tapi itu untuk membayar biaya kontrak rumah kami, biasanya. 20% dari gaji saya pakai untuk keperluan saya: untuk biaya transport dan untuk makan di pabrik.

Kakak laki-laki saya sudah berkeluarga. Jadi Ibu dan saya yang harus bertanggung jawab atas kedua adik. Adik laki-laki saya di sini bersama kami, sekarang masih sekolah SMA. Saya juga punya adik perempuan yang tetap tinggal di Sumatra sesudah yang lain pindah ke Jakarta. Dulu dia tinggal bersama nenek, tetapi sekarang karena nenek saya sudah meninggal, ia harus kost di sana. Itu juga perlu biaya.

Saya pernah tanya pada adik perempuan saya, “Mau sekolah atau mau kerja?„ Dia bilang mau sih kerja dulu, kalau kuliah dia mau tanggung sendiri. Saya tanya, Kenapatidak biar kakak nabung dan bayar saja?“ Katanya dia memprihatinkan kondisi kakak-kakaknya. Dia selalu memikirkan bagaimana keadaan kakaknya.

Sejak awal tahun ini, adik perempuan saya mulai bekerja sebagai editor. Harapannya untuk ke depan dia bisa menghidupi diri sendiri. Sampai sekarang agak susah untuk adik saya karena dia ada cacat di tulangnya. Dia masih bisa jalan tapi tidak bisa bekerja fisik.

Ada cerita lucu ketika saya tiap bulan mengirim uang untuk adik. Jam istirahat saya tidak lama dan kalau pergi keluar saya selalu takut akan telat kembali. Kalau saya telat sebentarpun saya bisa dimarahi benar oleh atasan. Jadi saya harus agak lari-lari sampai bank untuk transfer uang. Saya lari dari pabrik dan sepanjang jalan menuju bank. Kemudian saya antri di bank, tapi saking takutnya telat kembali kerja, saya selalu melihat jam.. Terus setelah transfer uang, saya lari secepatnya kembali ke pabrik. Sangat melelahkan- tetapi lucu juga!

Note: The content of this blog is produced by and reflects the personal views of individuals, including workers and union leaders based in Indonesia. The views expressed in this blog are therefore individual views and do not necessarily represent the view or position of and are not endorsed by Oxfam Australia. Further the purpose of this blog is to assist in providing a platform for individuals, including workers and union leaders based in Indonesia to communicate directly with the public and no representation is made as to the accuracy of the information. The information contained in this blog is provided only for educational purposes, and blog topics may or may not be updated subsequent to their initial posting.