Although the tobacco industry provides a large amount of employment for some Indonesian people, these figures are often exaggerated by the tobacco industry to be used as bargaining chips when trying to promote their cause. Agriculture has always been a large part of Indonesias livelihood, employing 41% of the population in 2012 (Indonesia investments, 2012).
However of the entire agricultural sector only 0.3% is comprised of tobacco farms and 0.03% of gross domestic product (Indonesia Ministry of Agriculture, 2010). Most agricultural farms in Indonesia are plantations of things like rubber, palm oil, cocoa and coffee (Indonesia investments, 2012). When fighting tobacco control, tobacco spokespeople use employment figures anywhere from 3 – 10 million jobs (SEATCA, ). With varying figures and statistics, it is easy for false numbers to become factual as news and information spreads around.
Villages in high tobacco producing areas like central and east java do benefit highly from the seasonal work that comes with the plantations. However more issues arise as child labour becomes very tempting for struggling families looking for more income. Of the estimates 2.5 million Indonesian children who are working when they should be in school, 60% of those are working in tobacco farms (SEATCA, ). Children are at a high risk of green tobacco sickness, as nicotine is able to enter the body through the pores in our skin when handling tobacco leaves (Human Rights Watch, 2016). Some children report working 7 day weeks and feeling sick during their work days (Human Rights Watch, 2016). The main issue with child labour however is the inability to break the cycle of poverty without an education. If kids are not in school, it makes it much harder to learn new skills which can break them out of low paying jobs such as working on a tobacco farm.
What many tobacco control lobbyist in Indonesia want is a higher tax rate on cigarettes. This would make it harder for people to afford to smoke, which has been shown in other countries to really work to drive down smoker numbers. Currently an average of Indonesian smokers income spent on cigarettes is 19% and if that number could be lessened and spend on more productive parts of the Indonesian market then there would be an economic boom in Indonesian industry, with money spread out evenly. Rather than the billions of IDR going solely to the already enormous main 5 tobacco companies.
A Brief History of Tobacco