Although Indonesians--particularly Javanese--are sometimes stereotyped as highly immobile, rarely venturing out beyond the confines of their village environment, this image may be due to a lack of clear data and an extraordinarily complex pattern of movement in the population. By the early 1990s, outmigration had become as common a response to overcrowded conditions caused by rising population as resigned acceptance of impoverishment. Central Javanese, in particular, were leaving their home region in record numbers. The number of all Javanese leaving the island permanently was growing: there was a 73 percent increase in outmigration from 1971 to 1980. Some 6 percent of the population of the other islands was Javanese by 1980. Whereas most Indonesians who moved from one region to another did so on their own, some migration was organized by the government-sponsored Transmigration Program. From 1969 to 1989, some 730,000 families were relocated by this program from the overpopulated islands of Java, Bali, and Madura to less populated islands. Nearly half of these migrants went to Sumatra, particularly its southern provinces. Smaller numbers went to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Irian Jaya. The overall impact on population problems in Java and Bali was limited, however, and there were increasing problems in finding suitable land on the other islands. Land disputes with indigenous inhabitants, deforestation, and problems of agricultural productivity and social infrastructure presented continuing difficulties for this program.

During this period, Indonesians were also engaging in what demographers call "circular migration" and other kinds of commuting in greater numbers than ever before. This trend was linked in part to the exponential increase in the number of motor vehicles, from 3 per 1,000 in the 1960s to 26.2 per 1,000 in 1980 to 46.3 per 1,000 in 1990. With the widespread availability of public bus transportation among cities and villages, many workers commuted fifty kilometers or more daily to work. Other workers lived away from their homes for several days at a time in order to work. The World Bank estimated that 25 percent of rural households had at least one family member working for part of the year in an urban area.

Although the implications of this migration on the social and economic conditions of the nation remained unclear, without question Indonesians of different ethnic backgrounds and occupations increasingly intermingled. They also found themselves in circumstances where they could not rely on kin and village networks for social support, and so looked to government services for help. Two important areas in which government services provided support were education and health care.


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