Celebration of Kartini Day is always synonymous with kebaya and batik. Unfortunately, unlike previous years, after more than a year of being hit by a pandemic, this year's Kartini Day celebration was overshadowed by the news of the collapse of 75 percent of batik craftsmen in the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed made IKM (Small and Medium Industries) players in the TPT (Textile and Textile Products) sector, particularly batik, fall to a nadir. Sales figures in various batik production centers, starting from Cirebon, Pekalongan, Solo, Yogyakarta, to Pamekasan, continue to fall sharply. If in 2019 the national batik trade transaction value reached IDR 3.6 trillion, then in 2020 the value is only IDR 910 million. As a result, most batik producers, especially those on the UMKM scale (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), have stopped completely. According to data from the Association of Indonesian Batik Craftsmen and Entrepreneurs (APPBI), out of the 151,656 registered batik craftsmen, now only 37,914 are still producing.
This rolling mat of the people's batik industry has certainly affected the batik craftsmen. They are forced to be laid off and switch professions to survive. According to APPBI, these batik craftsmen then switched professions to become laborers, fishermen, farmers, and other odd jobs.
Economically, there is actually no problem with such a professional transfer. However, from the other side, for example culture, this change of profession could threaten the continuity of the batik tradition in the country. Because, making batik is an art of fine motor skills, while the new jobs that are now being undertaken by the former batik craftsmen are generally menial jobs. If there is no intervention to cut the mortality of the people's batik industry, and to return the craftsmen to their original professions, we will face serious obstacles in restoring the skills of these batik makers. In my opinion, this issue needs serious attention.
Save the mothers of the Batik Industry
Since the beginning of its development, the batik industry has been dominated by women, both business actors and workers. Sociologically, women in Java, and several other areas in Indonesia, do have a dominant role in economic life. In the midst of feudal and priyayi culture, men were usually expected to work in government institutions rather than trade. A job as a trader is considered to have a lower rank than being an employee. Meanwhile, among the common people, men usually work in the agricultural sector as producer farmers. This is what has made economic and trade activities in Java filled by women, including the people's batik industry.
Currently, in both political science and management studies, women are considered to be the key to change. Some marketing experts, for example, call the present era New Wave Culture, a new cultural wave that marks a shift that is opposite to the previous wave. Unlike the previous era, the world today is dominated by 3 great powers, namely youth (youth), women (women) and netizens. The position of women is truly considered vital, thus giving birth to the term "The Power of Mother".
That is why, it is very unfortunate if we let the life of the batik craftsmen, who are dominated by the economic actors of the people and women, continue to decline. It is not only the batik tradition that is threatened with retreating, but the role of women in the economic sector can also be eroded. According to the National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas, August 2020), the female labor force participation rate (TPAK) was only 53.13 percent. This means that only half of the female population in Indonesia are employed. LFP figures have tended to be stagnant in the last two decades. This means that since 20 years ago, more Indonesian women have become unemployed.
On the other hand, only 39 percent of the female workforce have a career in the formal sector. This figure is much lower than that of men who reached 47 percent. This means that around 60.69 percent of women work in the informal sector. Because this data was released in August 2020, these numbers certainly do not show the impact of the pandemic on the economic activities of mothers in Indonesia.
On this Kartini Day, the government should pay great attention to saving the people's and women's batik industry. The tradition of making batik itself, as an art, may not be completely lost. However, as a people's industry, as well as an arena of economic articulation for Indonesian mothers, the batik industry may soon become a thing of the past. This is what is urgent to be saved!