Working life in the archipelago

From the nineteenth century onwards,  Jews were permitted to work for the colonial administration of the Dutch East Indies. Along with the flourishing trade in the region, this was another good reason to emigrate to the colony, where labour was in short supply. In the Netherlands, in contrast, it was difficult to find work.

Jews worked  in many areas of public administration, such as the educational system, the judiciary, and the postal service. Others worked at plantations, or as professional soldiers in the KNIL, the Dutch army in the colony. Still others were traders, factory owners, or independent professionals such as doctors or engineers. Journalists, researchers, and artists also worked in the Dutch East Indies, often for relatively short periods.

Europeans who stayed in the Dutch East Indies for many years could return to the Netherlands on leave from time to time. For example, after six years of working in the colony, a civil servant was entitled to six months’ leave in the Netherlands.


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