Could a Resource Export Boom Reduce Workers’ Earnings? The Labour-Market Channel in Indonesia

Ian Coxhead, Rashesh Shrestha

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    For a decade from 2000, Indonesia underwent a natural-resource export boom. Aggregate income rose, but real labour earnings stagnated. Employment rose, too, but mainly in low-skill sectors with predominantly informal employment arrangements. In this article, we reveal causal connections from the aggregate phenomenon of Dutch disease to these labour-market outcomes. We first explain broad sectoral trends, and then, integrating data from several national surveys, investigate sources of variation in boom-era labour earnings. We use instrumental variables to address issues of endogeneity and selection in earnings equations. After controlling for individual and district features, we find that the intensity of palm oil production—palm oil having been a key booming resource export—robustly predicts diminished formal employment, and that lower formality, in turn, robustly predicts lower earnings. Our findings establish causal linkages absent from prior studies, and so provide a structural dimension to ongoing debates over persistent poverty, rising inequality, and the lack of educational progress in Indonesia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-208
    JournalBulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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