Lunch in Indonesia : Just a formality? A qualitative research on informal economy and the role od warung restaurants in growing Yogyakarta

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Cities in Java grow in a tremendous pace, in terms of population, size and economics. In 2013, Indonesia reached a population of nearly 250 million, whilst more than 50 % of the population is residing in urban areas [compared with less than 20 % in the 1960s]. This urban growth, together with the uprising of Indonesia as a global economic and political power, leads to the acknowledgment that the way to organize Indonesian cities is dynamically changing. This contains dozens of urban functions. Currently we can see that several functions of cities are left in the informal sector. Fully reliable figures are difficult to expose, but the estimation is that at least one-third of the city of Yogyakarta’s [Central Java] income is derived from the informal sector. The informal economy – an economy based on and constructed through social relations and negotiations – is inextricably connected with contemporary Yogyakarta. The ‘warung’ sector, in this, is a thriving informal sector. The small warung restaurants are representative for Indonesian street life and their presence is outnumbered, which is explained by the cheap prices, accessibility, and the highly flavored food. The magnitude of this specific sector is without parallel and preserves Indonesian habits and social cohesion, whilst the enriched Indonesian cuisine remains untouched. The question is whether these formally unofficial businesses are vital enough to let a modernizing or globalizing city as Yogyakarta work. One of these informal businesses is the warung restaurant, and because of its cheap prices, huge clientele and frequent appearance it seems to be a central phenomenon in everyday life of Yogyakarta’s citizens. The warung sector is a sector with high socio-economic potential, yet the potential is unused as government[s] in Yogyakarta do not actively participate in strengthening the possibilities of unofficial economic activities – even when their cultural and social value is immeasurable.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen