The book deals with the transformation of labour markets in Indonesia over thirty years of New Order government under President Soeharto. It traces the impact of rapid economic growth on employment, wages and labour productivity in an initially poor labour surplus economy. Key elements of the process include a growing industrial and informal sector work force, rising labour incomes, increasing mobility of rural labour, regional integration and greater female participation in the economy. Challenges include high rates of urban unemployment, dissatisfaction with tight controls imposed on industrial workers and rising aspirations created by sharp increases in minimum wages.
"This is the most comprehensive and authoritative study I know of the role of labor in the economic development of a major country. It could only have been written by someone who knows the complex Indonesian situation well. Chris Manning is an Australian economist who has worked on Indonesian labor topics for over two decades. his satisfying work is not only a comprehensive analysis of the Indonesian case but also a source of important insights into labor's role in development more generally." Donald R. Snodgrass, Journal of Asian Business