The people who make your TV live and work here

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Indonesia
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Worker dormitories on Batam Island, near Singapore

This photograph is taken at Batamindo Industrial Estate on Batam Island. Batam Island is part of Indonesia but only a short ferry ride from Singapore. Many companies have regional headquarters in Singapore but base their manufacturing operations across the strait in Batam. It enjoyed a brief moment of fame in 2010 when debris fell onto the island from a Qantas A380 experiencing engine failure shortly after take-off from Singapore.

Map showing relative location of Batam and Singapore

Since being set aside for development in 1972, the population of Batam has grown from about 6,000 to one million today.

There are many industrial estates conducting manufacturing. Batamindo, pictured above, employs and houses 80,000 workers. Well known companies with a presence in Batamindo include Casio, Epson, Panasonic, PhilipsSanyo, Sanwa, Siemens, Sony, and TEAC. The components they work on include LCD screens, rechargeable batteries, computer cables and remote control units.

The majority of the workers are young women from small towns and kampungs across Indonesia, who are considered unskilled and easily replaceable. They are given short-term contracts rather than permanent employment, leaving them with no job security (sometimes called ‘precarious employment’).

Wages in light manufacturing are about $100 a month. Because of the nature of Batam, none of the production-line workers live close to their families. They share dormitories in groups of sixteen and sleep on bunk beds. They often send a large part of their earnings back to their home province, to support their families.

We’ll revisit Batam later.

  1. […] lists would not be those of soft drink companies, running shoe manufacturers, or people who sell plasma screen TVs. They would be the names of industrial companies, financial institutions, natural resources and […]

  2. […] The people who make your TV live and work here 3 January 2011 Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  3. […] very first post was about light manufacturing on Batam Island – which drew largely from the bleak portrait […]

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