Child Worker and Family Life in Johar Market

JOHAR MARKET is the largest and oldest shopping area in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. Here we find a large number of children, aged between 7 – 16 years, working as shoe shiners, newspaper seller, and buskers. The majority of these children have dropped out from elementary school because their families cannot afford the costs involved. Once they start working, they find in difficult to return to school, as their wages are often a vital contribution to the family income.

There are also a number of working children who have migrated to Johar Market from surrounding rural areas. Recent research has identified 118 such children who live and work in the market area, returning home only once a week.

Other working children in Johar Market are mainly from local slum communities and come to the market daily, although it is not uncommon for these children to sleep in the market area with their friends.

The quality of the family life in the slum is determined by conditions of overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of welfare facilities. This leads to the search for both work and entertainment on the streets. The combined income of both parents and children is just enough to provide for basic daily needs. Health and education are seen as luxuries. Most of the parents have had little schooling themselves and therefore, do not see the importance of education for their children. The children have a strong desire to go to school, but they know that if they don’t work, the family will be unable to support them.

The parents mainly work as labourers, bus conductors, maids, masseurs, junk collectors or pemulungs (makers of filters for cigarettes). This work pays very low wages and so any money earned by their children is an important supplement to the family income.

Many working children come from broken homes, arising from the stress of living in a state of poverty. In an attempt to escape the reality of their lives, parents indulge in alcohol and gambling, and men often take up with other women. The children feel a natural resentment when they see their hard-earned money being used for this purpose.

Communication in the family, is dominated by the parents. Often the children are unjustly punished simply because they dare to protest of they disagree with their parents. The child will also be punished if the or she does not return home each evening with the stated amount of money demanded by their parents. Working children are afraid to return home if they haven’t earned enough money, consequently they may continue working on the streets until very late at night. Often they don’t go home at all and sleep in Johar market of the nearby  Kuman mosque. In this situation there is no adult supervision and the children can easily get involved in illegal or dangerous activities.

Parents and children hardly ever see each other, creating further strain on family life. Even if the working child finished work early, he or she is more likely to hang around with friends then to go home immediately. When they do go home it is usually just for a quick rest and a change of clothes. Their parents also rarely go straight home from work, making normal family relationship impossible. (Winarso)

Sumber: Child Worker in Asia, Vol. 10, No. 1, January – March 1994 (halaman 3-4)

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