POPULATION AND BIRTH CONTROL IN INDONESIA

POPULATION OF INDONESIA

Indonesia is the forth most populous nation in the world after China, India and the United States. Population: 253,609,643 (July 2014 est.). The population of Indonesia was 237.6 million according to preliminary 2010 census figures released in August 2010 with an annual growth rate of 1.1 percent. This marked an increase of about 35 million since 2000. [Source: CIA World Factbook =, Library of Congress *]

Indonesia is a young nation. Median age: total: 29.2 years; male: 28.7 years; female: 29.8 years (2014 est.). Based on estimates for 2009, Indonesians aged nine or younger represent the largest age cohort, totaling some 44.9 million, or nearly 19 percent of the population. Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.2 percent (male 33,854,520/female 32,648,568); 15-24 years: 17.1 percent (male 22,067,716/female 21,291,548);25-54 years: 42.3 percent (male 54,500,650/female 52,723,359); 55-64 years: 7.9 percent (male 9,257,637/female 10,780,724); 65 years and over: 6.4 percent (male 7,176,865/female 9,308,056) (2014 est.). =*

The population density of Indonesia is 131 persons per square kilometer (2009), compared with 33.8 per square kilometer in the United States. In Java, Madura, and Bali, population densities are more than 900 per square kilometer. Census authorities in 2007 estimated an average density of 118 people/ square kilometers (Departemen Kesehatan, 2008). The population density on Java and Bali (977 people per square kilometers) was much higher than on other islands (50 people per square kilometers).

About half of Indonesia’s people live on Java and 60 percent live on Java and Bali, representing only 7 percent of the land area of Indonesia. Java is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with more than 120 million people, or some 945 persons per square kilometer. By contrast, the most densely populated Outer Islands have 90 persons or fewer per square kilometer. Jakarta, on the western end of Java, is the largest city, with an estimated population of 11.4 million in mid-2001. Java has so many people that the population has already outstripped the availability of land and water and residents of the island are being encouraged to move to another island.

Population Growth and Sex Ratios in Indonesia

Population growth rate: 0.95 percent (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 124 Birth rate: 17.04 births/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 108 Death rate: 6.34 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 156. Net migration rate: -1.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 154. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

The annual growth rate had changed slightly, from 1.3 percent in 2000 to an estimated 1.1 percent in 2009, with a birthrate estimated at 18.8 per 1,000 population. Life expectancy at birth for the total population stood at an estimated 70.8 years (versus 67.9 years in 2000), with males projected to live 68.3 years and females 73.4 years. Dependency ratios: total dependency ratio: 51 percent; youth dependency ratio: 43 percent; elderly dependency ratio: 8 percent; potential support ratio: 12.5 (2014 est.). [Source: =, Library of Congress *]

Indonesia’s gender ratio is fairly balanced, and comparable to that of its regional neighbors Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female; 0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female; 55-64 years: 1 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female; total population: 1 male(s)/female (2014 est.) . The rate of 1.05 males born for every female born is the same as for Australia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste. Malaysia’s gender ratio stood at 1.07:1 and Singapore’s at 1.08:1. =*

Total fertility rate: 2.18 children born/woman (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 102 Contraceptive prevalence rate: 61.9 percent (2012) Mother's mean age at first birth: 22.8 note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2012 est.). Fertility rates for women, based on births per woman, decreased slightly, from 2.6 in 2000 to an estimated 2.3 in 2009, and the infant mortality rate improved from 40.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to an estimated 29.9 deaths per 1,000 in 2009. The overall death rate was estimated in 2009 at 6.2 deaths per 1,000 of the population. =*

About 3 million new Indonesians, most of them on Java, are added to the populatiob every year. This is occurring even though the birth rate declined from 2.4 percent in 1978 to 1.5 today. One consequence of a low birth rate is an increasingly older population.

Results of the 2010 Census in Indonesia and What It Means

The Indonesian population, based on the massive nationwide census held in 2010, was officially put at exactly 237,556,363 as of July 1, 2010. The Jakarta reported: “Behind this figure is a host of questions that he would probably rather not answer, because he doesn’t have them. Number one, it is a reflection of the failure of the national family planning program, particularly in the last 12 years, more precisely since the end of the Soeharto regime. The final number, let’s round it up to 237.6 million, overshoots the government’s own estimate of 234.1 million made 10 years ago based on the last population census. [Source: Jakarta Post, August 19 2010 |~|]

“The Central Statistical Agency said the net population growth in the last 10 years averaged 1.49 percent each year, basically unchanged from what we had in the 1990-2000 period. This figure conceals the fact that, at this rate, Indonesia’s population according to one estimate will grow by as many as 15 million people in the next five years, and that the 250 million mark will be surpassed under Yudhoyono’s watch. |~|

“This raises the next important questions like how is the nation going to feed the additional 15 million mouths (more than three times the size of Singapore), how are we going to send them to school, will the economy be large enough to absorb them into gainful employment, and other important questions related to their welfare and prosperity. The threat of a Malthusian catastrophe, named after a 19th century British neo-classical economist, that at some stage population growth will outstrip food production, may not be imminent, but given the scale of the challenge, we should not dismiss it lightly either. It would only take a huge disaster of the scale similar to the massive floods in Pakistan to make that threat into a reality. |~|

“For all his faults, one thing we can say about Soeharto is that he was right on the money when he progressively campaigned for a national family planning program. During the 30 years of his dictatorship, population growth declined from an annual average of 2.31 percent to 1.49 percent, thus sparing the nation from the Malthusian trap.” |~|

Indonesia’s Population Surpassing the U.S. by 2043? And What That Means

If Indonesia’s population growth rate remains at 1.49 percent, it nation would overtake the U.S. as the world’s third-most-populous country by 2043, based on predictions by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bloomberg calculations. “Indonesia is seen by other countries as an opportunity because of its population,” Aris Ananta, who has published books on Indonesian demographics and is currently a senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore told Bloomberg . “It’s an asset. The government is shifting its responsibilities if it’s blaming population growth” for a failure to provide enough infrastructure or jobs, he said. [Source: Shamim Adam, Berni Moestafa and Novrida Manurung, Bloomberg, January 28, 2014 *-*]

Bloomberg reported:“While the rising supply of factory workers appeals to investors, it means the government has to direct more of its resources on education.Public spending on education as a percentage of government expenditure rose to about 17 percent in 2010 from 11.5 percent in 2001, according to the United Nations. Facing slower investment and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the Asia-Pacific region, the government is concerned the demographic dividend that attracts companies seeking a young, cheap workforce will become an economic time bomb. As Indonesia’s growth slows, it isn’t generating enough quality jobs to keep up with the population, the International Labour Organization said. *-*

About 19.6 percent of Indonesian youths between the ages of 15 and 24 were jobless in 2012, compared with about 16 percent in the Philippines, according to the ILO. Unemployment, inflation and the so-called youth bulge, a phenomenon where a large share of the population is comprised of children and young adults, contributed to the Arab Spring protests that ousted leaders in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in 2011. *-*

Population Control in Indonesia

There was widespread agreement within the Indonesian government and among foreign advisers that one of the most pressing problems facing Indonesia in the early 1990s was overpopulation. While Indonesia still had high fertility rates, there were significant reductions in these levels in the 1980s. The overall population annual growth rate was reduced to an estimated 2.0 percent by 1990, down from 2.2 in the 1975-80 period. The crude birth rate declined from 48.8 births per 1,000 in 1968 to 29 per 1,000 in 1990. Although the widely publicized goal of 22 per 1,000 by 1991 was not achieved, the results were impressive for a country the size of Indonesia. The effect of the programs of the National Family Planning Coordinating Agency (BKKBN) was particularly dramatic in Java, Bali, and in urban areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, despite cutbacks in funding. The success of the program in these areas seemed to be directly linked to the improved education of women, their increasing tendency to postpone marriage, and, most important, to a growing awareness and effective use of modern contraceptives. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The reason behind Indonesia's overall decline in fertility rates was a matter of debate in 1992, because it was not clear that economic conditions had improved for most Indonesians during the 1970s and 1980s (the middle class did experience some improvement). Indeed, although the number of poor decreased in the 1970s and 1980s, landlessness, malnutrition, and social and economic inequality may have increased for many of the rural poor. However, some observers argued that, despite the lack of social and economic improvements among Indonesia's poor, easy availability of birth control procedures, mass education, and more mobile family structures may be sufficient to explain this impressive change. *

Even though Indonesia's growth rate had decreased over the decades since independence, the population continued to grow and population density increased significantly, particularly on the main islands. In July 1992, Indonesia's population had reached 195,683,531, with an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent, according to United States estimates. The Indonesians themselves claimed 179,322,000 in their 1990 census and various foreign estimates for 1992 ranged between 183 million and 184 million, with a 1.7 percent growth rate. Population growth placed enormous pressures on land, the education system, and other social resources, and was closely linked to the dramatic rise in population mobility and urbanization. At such rates of growth, the population was expected to double by 2025. Even if birth control programs in place in the early 1990s succeeded beyond expectations and each Indonesian woman had only two children, Indonesia's population was still so young that huge numbers of women would reach their child-bearing years in the first decades of the twentyfirst century. This tremendous ballooning of the younger population groups virtually ensured that overpopulation would continue to be a major source of concern well into the next century. By the year 2000, Indonesia's population was projected to reach at least 210 million, with the country maintaining its position as the fourth most populous nation on earth. *

Although Indonesia's demographic situation was cause for great concern, it had much in common with other Third World nations. Indeed, in some respects Indonesia was slightly better off than other developing countries in the early 1990s because it had initiated some of the world's most ambitious programs to control its population problem. The key features of these initiatives were the national birth control program and the massive Transmigration Program, in which some 730,000 families were relocated to underpopulated areas of the country. *

The population problem was most dramatic among the rice-growing peasants of Java and Bali and in cities--particularly Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, and Medan. In 1980 the islands of Java, Madura, and Bali, which comprised 6.9 percent of the nation's land area, were home to 63.6 percent of Indonesia's population. These major islands had a population density of more than 500 persons per square kilometer, five times that of the most densely populated Outer Islands. *

The inability of these islands to support ever larger populations on ever smaller plots of land was apparent in 1992, particularly to the farmers themselves. Although the intensification of padi agriculture had for decades permitted the absorption of this rising labor force, the rural poor from Java, Bali, and Madura were leaving their native areas to seek more land and opportunity elsewhere. Attempts at significant land reform, which might have improved the peasants' lot, were stalled--if not abandoned--in many areas of Java because of riots and massacres following the alleged communist coup attempt of 1965. Reformers were cautious about raising the issue of land redistribution for fear of being branded communists. *

Family Planning in the Suharto Era

The "national family-prosperity" birth control program set by Suharto’s national Family Planning Coordinating Board has been very successful in reducing the birth rate in Indonesia in a that was less draconian than its counterpart in China. "Indonesia's authoritarian government," wrote William Branigin in the Washington Post, "has been able to stiff-arm Muslim foes and pursue its widely praised family planning program...Its 24-year-old family planning program, considered the most successful in the Muslim world, has managed to bring annual population growth down from 2.5 percent in the 1970s to 1.6 percent today."

Under Suharto many different kinds of family planning programs were allowed to be set up. Condom factories were opened and local "supermarket style" family planing centers were established. Clinics were opened that provided free contraceptives. “Two children is enough” slogans were placed on billboards across the country. There were no draconian one-child laws like in China or sterilization clinics like in India.

After years of looking upon western attitudes as immoral, in the early 1970s contraceptives were suddenly made available and signs sprung in villages all over the country encouraging couples to have two or less children. One Western diplomat in Jakarta told Barnigin, "What makes it so special is the government has worked very hard with religious leaders to bring them along. The need to get religious leaders to go along with it was the biggest challenge they faced."

Between the 1970s and 1990s, years, contraceptive use increased from 10 percent per couple to 50 percent. As a result, the average family size fell by a third to four children per couple in the 1980s. Although birth rates among the middle class have been lowered birth rates remain high among the poor and some Muslims.

Population and Economic in Indonesia

According to Bloomberg: “As more Indonesians leave plantations to work in the towns and cities and rising prices sap their ability to raise and school large families. Twenty-eight -year-old Wahyu, has only one kid. With an income of 15,000 rupiah a day from cutting flowers for shops in Jakarta, he eats mostly rice and dried fish and saves what little he can for his dream of opening a shop selling motorcycle parts. “With only 15,000 rupiah a day, it’s hardly enough to raise one child,” said Wahyu. “Life is harder now.” “There is a saying in Indonesia: ‘Many children, many blessings,’” Todd Callahan, Indonesian country director of DKT International, one of the largest private providers of contraceptives and family planning services in the developing world, told Bloomberg “In Jakarta, it’s ‘many children, many expenses.’”[Source: Shamim Adam, Berni Moestafa and Novrida Manurung, Bloomberg, January 28, 2014 *-*]

Heru Purnomo, who works at a courier service in the capital, said he doesn’t plan to have more than two. “Competition is tight,” said Purnomo, 25. “Now, people have to have a high level of education to get a job. If you have too many children, you get left behind.” *-*

Indonesia’s labor force will grow 11.2 percent this decade through 2020, while its population will increase about 11.5 percent, according to Bank of America Corp. The high proportion of young adults -- about 50 percent of Indonesians are aged below 30 -- has attracted companies such as L’Oreal SA, the world’s largest cosmetics maker, which opened its biggest factory globally in West Java in 2012 to supply products to Southeast Asia. *-*

“Indonesians are using a bigger percentage of their paychecks on non-food items, government data showed. Average non-food household expenditure was 52.3 percent in September 2012, from 37.1 percent in 1999. “The demographic dividend is a positive thing for countries, it’s a question of what you do with that population,” Rajat Nag, former managing director-general of the Asian Development Bank, told Bloomberg. *-*

Contraceptives and Muslim Clerics in Indonesia

About half of Indonesian women of reproductive age use contraception and 90 percent of those said they paid for it, according to official data. According to Bloomberg: “Asih, a mother of seven, is among them. After her third child she tried injections -- the most common form of female contraception in the country -- because the pill made her sick. At 15,000 rupiah a shot, she couldn’t afford to keep taking them and in the following years, she had four more children. “The government’s goal is to try to shift the mix away from short-term methods to longer-term ones,” said Todd Callahan, Indonesian country director of DKT International, one of the largest private providers of contraceptives and family planning services in the developing world. “To change the trends in usage is going to need a few years.” [Source: Shamim Adam, Berni Moestafa and Novrida Manurung, Bloomberg, January 28, 2014 *-*]

“The government must also overcome cultural and religious barriers. The National Family Planning Coordination Board, which has a campaign with the slogan “Two Children Are Enough,” said in July it’s working with Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia’s largest Muslim groups, to open centers in high schools and colleges that will discuss family planning and sexual reproductive health. “In some circles, the thinking remains that if couples follow family planning, they aren’t being grateful to God,” said Emi Nurjasmi, head of the Indonesian Midwives Association, which has more than 250,000 members. She said the midwives try to change people’s attitude as well as administering injections and inserting intrauterine devices. *-*

“In a religious school, or madrasah, in Lamongan in East Java province, Ainul Fahri, 17, says sex education was non-existent until a non-government organization for women’s rights persuaded four local schools to introduce the subject. “Even though this is a madrasah there are cases of early pregnancies,” Fahri said. “People here are completely in the dark about sex education.” *-*

“Plans to slow population growth may see most resistance in rural areas where bigger families mean more farmhands and support for parents in their old age. “There was family planning back in Suharto’s time and some of my neighbors took part, but I thought that having more children is better,” said Ikrar, a father of 11 who grows organic vegetables in Cibuntu village in Sukabumi, one of the two least-developed regencies in West Java. *-*

Putting Family Planning Back on Indonesia’s Agenda

In 2014, the Indonesian government expanded free family planning nationwide from seven to all 33 provinces. Bloomberg reported: “The Indonesian government wants families to stop at two children to prevent a burgeoning population overwhelming schools and services. Asih, a cleaner in Tangerang, near Jakarta, is stopping at seven. “In my family, we always had a lot of children, and as long as we still had something to eat, why do family planning?” said Asih, 35. “Now I have two children in primary school and more that will have to go in the next few years and I have no money to pay school fees. Seven kids are enough.” [Source: Shamim Adam, Berni Moestafa and Novrida Manurung, Bloomberg, January 28, 2014 *-*]

“That prospect has brought the revival of a birth-control program begun in 1968 by former President Suharto, who managed to halve the fertility rate to about 2.6, where it’s been stuck ever since. The government wants to cut the rate to the replacement level of 2.1 within two years to prevent the 250 million population doubling by 2060. “We have to go back to the policies of the Suharto era, to make strong campaigns and bring the fertility rate down,” said M Sairi Hasbullah, head of Indonesia’s statistics bureau for East Java province. “It’s not going to be easy to provide food, education, health facilities and infrastructure for 500 million people. It’s a big danger for Indonesia.” *-*

“The government increased the budget for family planning programs almost fourfold since 2006, to 2.6 trillion rupiah ($214 million) in 2013, funding everything from training rural midwives via text messages, to persuading Muslim clerics to encourage vasectomies. The measures extend efforts dating back to 1968, when Suharto set up the National Family Planning Institute to provide advice and contraceptives. *-*

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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