Indonesia Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

The standard of living and general health of the Indonesians has improved significantly since the 1960s. The economic crisis of 1997–1998 marked a setback as the proportion of poor people in the population increased from one tenth in 1996 to almost one third three years later. Today, 10 in Indonesia are again living below the official poverty line.

The poor are mainly found in the countryside and in the eastern parts of the country. Many poor families have been hit hard when the government sharply reduced subsidies on fuel during the 2000s and 2010s, while the price of rice has risen.

  • Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Indonesia, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.

Health care has been improved by new health centers being built in the countryside. Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s, the number of health centers increased from 1,200 to over 7,000. Access to clean water improved and vaccination programs were implemented. Since 1967, life expectancy has risen by more than 20 years.

indonesia population

Remaining health problems are high maternal and infant mortality and malnutrition among children. Diseases such as malaria, gonorrhea and tuberculosis are still common.

General government social insurance has been gradually introduced during the 2000s and 2010s. The insurance must cover, among other things, free health care, life and accident insurance, pensions and compensation for illness and unemployment. But so far, not all Indonesians are covered by the general insurance systems, which are underfunded. Residents who can afford to take out private insurance.


A plethora of ethnic groups, languages, religions and cultures are within Indonesia’s borders. This makes society look different in different parts of the country. Life around the tradition-heavy Sultanates in Yogyakarta and Solo in central Java is essentially different from that of hunter and gatherer people in Papua, in the modern mega-city of Jakarta or in the Orthodox Muslim Aceh.

At the same time, there are a number of similarities between the people who together make up the nation of Indonesia. Most people nowadays can understand each other across the language boundaries through the Bahasa Indonesia national language. Indonesian children are taught in school to accept the cultural diversity, while the school wants to give them a national, Indonesian identity. One motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in diversity).

The children learn to love their own and others’ behavior (about traditions and customs). It can, for example, control who is allowed to own or use the land, how religion should be practiced, how marriage is arranged or how a funeral is conducted. Adat defines which Indonesian group a person belongs to.

Indonesians emphasize their socio-cultural background to varying degrees depending on the situation. Secularized, highly educated Indonesians can, for example, participate in a local ritual in honor of the god of rice. Most Indonesians still have a strong connection to rural life, where the tropical agriculture cycle characterizes life. Many have grown up in the country themselves or their parents have done so.

Traditionally, researchers have talked about three basic Indonesian cultures: the rice cultivator culture (mainly Java, Bali and southern Sumatra), the coastal cities’ Muslim merchant culture (Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi) and the sweden farming culture inland throughout the island world. Nowadays, the urban middle-class lifestyle should be added to the three. In it, people are more identified as Indonesians than as members of any particular ethnic group.

Indonesia is a socially stratified society, although the different classes can be diffuse. The old upper class in the many small sultanates that once dominated the island world has today been replaced by an upper class consisting of generals (often Javanese) and wealthy businessmen (often Chinese). The peasants are a kind of underclass, although many peasants who own their land today should soon be regarded as middle class. The growing group of well-educated urban residents constitutes a given middle class. There is also a working class in the cities. However, the large subclass consists of the low-skilled in the service sector and the informal sector.

But social status is a complex thing. For example, pribumi (roughly indigenous Indonesians who are usually peasants) are highly esteemed even though they are often poor. Similarly, within the Chinese minority there are some well-off, influential and highly educated people who still have a low social status.

Family life and woman’s situation

In Indonesia, everything from big-family culture in the long houses along the rivers of Borneo to the nuclear family or single life in the big cities can be accommodated. But no matter how you live your life, cooperation and loyalty between relatives is still highly valued.

Traditionally, Indonesian families have had many children, but during the 1980s and 1990s, child restraint campaigns were conducted, including under the slogan dua anak cukup (two children are enough). Today the children are smaller than before.

The woman’s position varies between different groups. In the minangkabau people of western Sumatra, the land is owned by women and only the daughters can inherit. The men live all their lives with their mother and make occasional visits to their wife in her house.

In general, however, it is the man who is the head of the family. But women often have a great influence on the children and the household. Indonesian women are generally more equal than women in most other Muslim countries. For example, they have the right to own land, initiate divorce and have the same inheritance rights as men. Indonesian women are, on average, better educated than before and they get married later in life. They have full voting rights and the same civil liberties and rights as men. They can hold any political office. There is no compulsion to wear a veil or live in privacy. Women greet by taking care, just as men do.

More and more women are working outside the home. At least 40 percent of the workforce is women. But in Parliament, the government and the senior officials’ corps they are clearly under-represented, even though Indonesia has had a female president (Megawati Sukarnoputri 2001–2004).

However, it remains far to full equality. Arranged marriages are still common, especially in rural areas. Polygamy occurs, although it is unusual. A man can have up to four wives if he can support them all and if the wife / wives accept new co-wives.

In regions where a stricter variant of Islam is practiced, mainly Aceh and western Java, the woman is subject to much greater restrictions on clothing choices, lifestyle and freedom of movement. For example, in the regions where Sharia (Muslim law) is applied in civil law, a greater burden of proof is imposed on the woman than the man in divorce. In their places, there are morality police who harass women who are lonely after dark or who dress “inappropriately”.

Women are discriminated against in the labor market. Women have lower wages than men and unemployment is higher among women. It happens that women lose their jobs during pregnancy or during the statutory three-month maternity leave. Some women must enter into an agreement with the employer not to become pregnant.

And despite the fact that women are equal to the men in the law, a woman must have the spouse’s or father’s permission to obtain a passport, work at night, perform an abortion or sterilize herself. It can also be more difficult for a woman to get a loan or credit.

In 1998, a Commission Against Violence Against Women was established. This has led to more reports but still only a small part of the crimes are reported. Rape in marriage is not punishable. There are close to 200,000 prostitutes, of whom three are children (under 18). Prostitution is prohibited by law but is accepted in practice. At least 100,000 people (mainly women and children) fall victim to human trafficking every year, despite the fact that there is a national action plan against the problem. Public servants and maids in private households often work under slave-like conditions.

Children’s situation

Indonesia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that a person is a child up to the age of 18. Despite this, the marriage age for women is set at 16 (for men up to 19). At the age of 13, an Indonesian is allowed to take up employment. Child labor occurs, not least in private households. Other child workers work black with, for example, shoe polish or newspaper sales on the streets. There are also children working in industry, mining and plantation agriculture. A total of three million children are estimated to work. There are also many street children.

An Indonesian is a criminal offender at the age of 16. From the age of eight, a child can be sentenced for a crime by a juvenile court.

In the event of divorce, the child has no statutory right to meet both parents.

Genital mutilation of girls occurs in certain areas.

Child soldiers are said to have been used by, among other things, the guerrilla movement GAM in Aceh.

The rights of LGBT people

Being gay is not illegal and the tolerance of homosexuals is generally relatively high. But more recently, fundamentalist Islamist groups have increasingly openly attacked homosexuals who they perceive as “non-Muslim.” It can also be difficult to live as openly gay because of the social pressure of getting married.

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Infant Mortality: 21 per 1000 births (2018)

Percentage of HIV infected: 0.4 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young women

0.2 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.3 percent (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 89.5 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 73.1 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 3.3 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 112 (2016)

Proportion of women in parliament: 20 percent (2018)



Mutiny causes the president’s popularity to decline

Shortly after the re-election in July, President Yudhoyono’s popularity begins to decline. The triggering factor is an alleged attempt to discredit the State Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), which Yudhoyono himself initiated to set up. Two KPK officials are charged with bribery, but are released by court. A scandal arises when KPK can play tape recordings proving how police officers and officials at the Justice Department conspire to sabotage KPK, which has dropped a number of high-ranking government officials for corruption crimes. One of the officials at the Justice Department is sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Yudhoyono is criticized for not intervening in the scandal and the president’s reputation as anti-corruption fighters.

New coalition government takes office

President Yudhoyono’s new government takes office. It is again a broad coalition government, now consisting of his own party DP, the secular Golkar and the four Muslim parties PAN, PKS, PKB and PPP. Ten of the old ministers are allowed to remain. PDI-P thus becomes the largest opposition party.


Known terrorist is shot dead by police

The wanted terrorist leader and militant Islamist Noordin Mohammad Top is shot dead by police. Top is suspected of having been behind several major terrorist attacks with fatalities around Indonesia in recent years.


Suicide bombings against two luxury hotels in Jakarta

Nine people are killed and many injured when two suicide bombers strike at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta.

Yudhoyono wins the presidential election by a wide margin

Yudhoyono wins the presidential election with over 60 percent of the vote. The closest competitor, Megawati Sukarnoputri from PDI-P, gets 27 percent while Josef Kalla from Golkar receives 12 percent of the vote. The turnout is relatively high, 82.5 percent.


Relatives of Yudhoyono are suspected of embezzlement

President Yudhoyono suffers a setback when his son-in-law is arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.


Josef Kalla and Megawati are running for president

By joining together in a ten-party alliance, Golkar and PDI-P can launch their presidential candidates: Josef Kalla and Megawati Sukarnoputri.


Yudhoyono’s party wins the election

Ahead of the parliamentary elections, the number of seats in the legislative lower house DPR is increased, from 550 to 560. The most important election issue is the country’s economy, which has shown signs of weakness. Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party (DP) will be the largest with 21 percent of the vote (128 seats). This is almost three times as many votes as in the 2004 election. Golkar will be the second largest party with 14 percent of the vote (108 seats). This is 128 seats lower than in 2004. PDI-P backs 14 percent (93 seats), compared with 109 seats in 2004. Another six parties are allowed in parliament: PKS, PAN, PPP, Gerindra, PKB and Hanura (for party descriptions see Political system). The turnout is 71 percent.


MPs are jailed for bribery

One MP is sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery.