As the sound of horns fill the streets signaling the beginning of a new day in Jakarta, one cannot help but notice a row of people standing on the road with arms outstretched. Scattered along small streets that feed into major roads, there is a sense of urgency as they pursue empty vehicles. As a car pulls up to the curb, there is an unspoken guideline. The person quickly jumps in the back seat, with no time to say goodbye to friends, and the car quickly drives away.
No one is worried. No one asks questions. The person disappears and the cycle continues. This is the life of a jockey in Jakarta.
The three-in-one policy, legalised in 2004, has made it compulsory for vehicles to carry three people while traveling through five main roads in central Jakarta. The policy, most heavily enforced during peak hours, can result in drivers receiving a fine if caught picking up jockeys. Although it is illegal, nearby security personnel, shop owners and residents are aware of jockeys along their street, turning a blind eye to this daily routine.
“I travel from Kemayoran and I get here every morning by 7 am. I get paid around 25,000 rupiah a trip but it’s usually whatever the driver picks. I bring my granddaughter along to make more money but sometimes it’s difficult bringing a young child with me, she gets bored and restless. I don’t think about getting caught because I have to make money to the pay rent and feed my family back home. My children and my grandchildren depend on me.”
“I make 20,000 a trip and around $100,000 rupiah most days. When people ask me why I do this I tell them I enjoy it. I’m 27 years old and I should be doing more but it’s hard for me because doing this is so easy. The current economic situation isn’t good and now I’m just in a financially bad situation. All I know is that I want to be successful but I don’t know how.”
“Being a jockey is fun. During the day I’m a mechanic but I still love doing this in my spare time. I enjoy it because it’s simple and free; you go into a car and get paid. I usually have five or six trips and I make 50,000 to 100,000 rupiah per day. Right now I don’t really have any plans for the future, I’m just going with the flow. For now what I’m doing is enough and I am happy.”
“My dream is that my children and my grandchildren get a good education and complete their master’s degree. For myself, I want to work for the government one day. I just quit my job and now I’m unemployed but I’m not taking trips every day, maybe two or three times a week. I get more money doing this then my old job. I don’t enjoy getting in peoples car but my old job didn’t pay me enough and now I make 20,000 rupiah a trip.”
“I dropped out of junior high school and never went to university. I didn’t like school but now I wished I did something. I’m 29 and I want to complete a course so I can get a job. I don’t care what certificate or field I work in I just want to start training so I can do something for my future. Until that time I’m going to be a jockey because it’s easy to do. There’s no training, and I get paid. I even talk to the driver, some of them are nice.”
“I’m trying to find a job but until I find one I decided to be a jockey. Most of my friends know, but I don’t tell my family. I’ve never been caught by police before but I like doing it because I travel around and I get paid. I don’t know what I want to do in the future. I might first find a job and save money so I can support my family. I want me and my girlfriend to have a good life.”
“I don’t like being a jockey and I’m not proud of it. It’s not something I thought I was going to do, it was never planned. I used to work with my parents running a small shop outside of Jakarta, but my mother fell very sick and I had to find work. I try going to different areas to be picked up, I don’t stay in one place. I only do this because of the money I make. I don’t do it for fun.”
“When I worked as a maid, before my daughter was born, I remember working hard. I was always tired and I didn’t get a lot of money. The people I worked with were not welcoming so I was happy to leave. I remember seeing a jockey on my way from work so I decided to try it. My husband works very hard and I help him out by making some more money. At first I was worried about bringing my daughter with me, but now I’m not, every trip has always been safe for us.”
Mariam Koslay is a journalist currently studying in Indonesia