Big Mak does a good job of unearthing exactly what colonial life was like. Specifically, he details worker abuse. He even talks about ethnic friction between the free Chinese merchants and brothel keepers and the native population. Mak isn't the only source that says such friction endures.
One place that came to mind when reading this was the American South. Mak uses slavery, along with the lot of Russian peasants to paint a clearer picture of just what it was like for Indonesians in the colonial period.
Although there are similarities to American slavery right down to ads for runaways, a more useful comparison would have been between old Indië and the contemporaneous American regime in the Philippines. Slavery in the American South had ended in 1865.
Big Mak points out that workplace inspections began in 1926, but he does not congratulate anyone. Instead, he uses an example to point out that abuses were being documented as late as 1940.