Tue, 31 Oct 2000

Unemployment causes conflicts: Minister

BANDUNG (JP): Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Al Hilal Hamdi believes that the high growth in unemployment is the root of the conflicts across the country.

"I have traveled across the country, from Aceh to Irian Jaya -- everywhere I went I saw crowds of people who are jobless," Al Hilal said in a seminar over the weekend.

He pointed out that the unemployment issue was also politically very sensitive as it could be used as a political tool by groups in the regions as well as in Jakarta.

He said every day the unemployed could easily be manipulated to mobilize support for groups to push certain issues, such as ethnicity, religion, culture, social and economic interests.

"The conflicts are cloaked in various issues, but the most significant issue is social and economic," Al Hilal, who was former deputy secretary general of the National Mandate Party (PAN), remarked.

He said the government would pay more attention to the unemployment issue as continued conflicts made possible by high unemployment would hamper investment to the country.

"We hope we can increase economic growth and open more job opportunities," he added.

Al Hilal revealed that "official" unemployment has currently reached over 3.7 million people, with an estimated 2.4 million job seekers entering the market next year.

But only about 1.6 million can be accommodated even with the assumption of economic growth at between 4 and 5 percent.

He said the government would also try to push some 500,000 of these new job seekers to find work overseas.

The remaining 300,000 would be left to add to the number of unemployed.

"We must reach a target of 8 percent in economic growth per year if we want to provide sufficient jobs," Al Hilal remarked. "That is on the assumption that 1 percent of economic growth would provide jobs for 400,000 people".(25/jun)