Indonesia has a labour force of about 87 million people. About 50% of workers are in the agricultural sector. Others are employed in the restaurant and hotel industry, trade, manufacturing and construction. Many people are unemployed.

Although Indonesia produces a range of crops, rice is the most important. There are two methods of rice cultivation. One, ladang, involves burning off the jungle to enrich the soil and prepare it for planting. However, the soil quickly loses its fertility, making settled agriculture impossible. Sawah, the other method, is used on the rich soils produced by volcanic ash and debris. Farmers flood the rice fields. This system has been developed and refined for over 2,000 years and produces two to three crops every year with no reduction in the fertility of the soil.

Indonesia's natural resources include oil, natural gas, timber, rubber, coffee, tea, tobacco, tin, nickel, copper and fish. Indonesia is the world's top producer of cloves, the second largest producer of rubber and the fourth largest coffee grower in the world. Indonesia also has an active manufacturing industry. This sector produces a wide range of items, including clothing, aircraft, automobiles, electrical equipment and appliances. Tourism is also an important industry, particularly on the island of Bali, although at times political unrest has discouraged tourists.

In 1997, the Asian Currency Crisis devastated Indonesia's economy. The rupiah lost value, companies went bankrupt, prices soared and millions of people lost their jobs. Many people were close to starvation and rioting broke out because of the high price of food. The poverty rate jumped from 11% to 50% of the population. Today, with increased stability in both the currency and the political situation, there is hope for improvement in the Indonesian economy.

   Did you know?
Indonesia has had its own communications satellite system since 1976. This has allowed for the expansion of telephone, television and broadcast systems throughout the archipelago.