Indonesia's demographic statistics and social diversity | Invest Islands


Indonesia is a vibrant democracy that is continuing to strengthen its political structures and deepen the enfranchisement of the population.

The meaning behind “Unity in Diversity”

Indonesia has a estimated population of 273.52 million in 2020, up from the 2015 estimate of 257 million. About 56.7% of Indonesia’s population lives on Java, the most populous island. These impressive numbers also imply that significant cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity can expected to be found within its boundaries, ranging from the daily Hindu rituals practiced on the island of Bali to the prevalence of Islamic sharia law in Aceh (Sumatra) or the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles of the Mentawai people.

Indonesia has more than 300 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups, although the largest and most dominant in terms of politics are the Javanese at over 40% of the population. Most Indonesians are descended from Austronesian-speaking people. Another major ethnic group are Melanesians who live in the eastern part of the country. In addition to this diverse population, Indonesia is also the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, as just over 87% of Indonesians declared Muslim on the 2010 census. Birth rate was healthy compared to the death rate too and based on a 2012 estimate, it’s believed that there are 17.76 births per 1,000 people compared to just 6.28 deaths. Add in a loss of 1.08 people to net migration and you have a total annual growth rate of 1.04%.

Moreover, before a national framework was laid upon them, the various regions experienced separate political and economic histories which are still evident in the current regional dynamics. Indonesia’s national motto Bhinekka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) refers to the variety in the country’s internal composition but also indicates that despite all differences in its multicultural society, there is a true sense of unity (Indonesianness) among the people of Indonesia.



Social Infrastructure


Rural and remote areas have more limited access to healthcare than urban areas. Studies suggest that, as of 2014, 40% of Indonesians do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Improving access to sanitation facilities and improving education of safe hygiene practices will be vital to achieving better basic health outcomes.

President Jokowi has sought to improve access to healthcare within Indonesia since his election. As Governor of Jakarta, he implemented the Jakarta Health Card (KJS). A nationwide programme was implemented in November 2014 and offers similar benefits to that operating in Jakarta. The Indonesia Health Card (Kartu Indonesia Sehat or KIS) offers free health insurance to the poor at a monthly premium of 19,225 rupiah ($1.90) per person. It is set to be distributed to 88.1 million Indonesians who live below the food poverty line, which has been defined at 2,100 kilocalories per day.



The Indonesian education system is behind those of other regional states. Unsurprisingly, it trails behind wealthy Singapore, but it is rated below that of Vietnam, a country with a per capita GDP two-fifths lower than that of Indonesia. Tellingly, at the end of their school careers, only 25% of Indonesia students meet minimum standards in literacy and numeracy.

In an attempt to improve education standards, President Jokowi launched the Indonesia Smart Card (Kartu Indonesia Pintar, or KIP) in November 2014. The card provides school fees and stipends for 12 years of education to 24 million poor students. The programme also provides free tertiary education to disadvantaged students who pass university entrance examinations. His government has also committed to spend 20% of the budget to improve the education sector, but whether this will overcome the high levels of corruption within the sector and actually make a difference remains to be seen.



Currently, close to two million Indonesians enter the labour force for the first time each year. It is estimated that, for each 1% increase in gross domestic product, an additional 200,000 to 300,000 new jobs are created. Based on this assumption, the economy will need to grow by an average of around 7% to ensure that there are enough jobs for new entrants to the labour force. Unemployment has been on a downward trend in recent years. As late as 2006, more than 10% of the population was unemployed; by 2018, that figure had fallen to 5.5%.

To conclude, the changing demographics of Indonesia have the potential to contribute to a variety of social issues. Some of these, such as an ageing population, will not be experienced until after 2050. Other social issues relating to education, employment, the distribution of wealth and urbanization, will likely be made manifest in the near-term. The current administration will need to ensure that it has the correct policy settings to address them.


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