Youth Empowerment in Indonesia
The information technology (IT) and mobile technology sectors in Indonesia have flourished in the last few years, and the country is poised to dominate those fields in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. In order to meet the growing demands of such booming sectors, tech-oriented education in Indonesia has become a prominent national goal.

Education and Technology

Throughout the past 20 years, Indonesia has made great strides toward increasing the quality and accessibility of education. Although Indonesia still has one of the lowest national education expenditures per GDP in the APAC region, the increased spending since 2005 has had positive impacts on Indonesian students. Schools’ capacity and reach have grown, and education has become more and more available to youth in rural communities through educational outreach and education technology.

In fact, a 2018 Cambridge Assessment of International Education found that Indonesian students are some of the most technologically engaged in the world. As education and mobile technology became more accessible, young Indonesians sought both. The surveying that the Cambridge Assessment completed found that around 40% of students were in computer science courses, which would help prepare them to enter the professional world of technology.

US Assistance

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked to help prepare Indonesian students for employment in various fields. With regards to technology, USAID recognizes the growing IT sector in Indonesia and the potential for student success in related positions. Therefore, USAID created a plan called Accelerating Work Achievement and Readiness for Employment 3 (AWARE3) in which 25 vocational schools in Jakarta are able to maintain partnerships with local businesses and corporations.

Within these partnerships, there are opportunities for students to engage with current business structures and potential employers through work readiness training, internships and more. The partnered businesses also assist the schools with maintaining an up-to-date curriculum that will best prepare students to enter the professional world with regard to the specific industry or vocation.

USAID and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture have goals for AWARE3 to meet by mid-2022. They hope to equip 250 or more teachers in Jakarta with resources to provide work readiness training for their students, and they aim for this training to reach areas all across Indonesia through distance-learning methods. The goal is to reach 4,500 students with the work-readiness curriculum via a remote learning platform. USAID has updated these goals based on the COVID-19 pandemic but hopes exist that the remote nature of these educational opportunities will limit the negative impacts of the pandemic.

Use of EdTech in Tech-Oriented Education in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture has worked with global organizations and foreign governments to implement several strategies and initiatives to broaden the reach and efficiency of its public education system. One of the most significant ways in which it has made education more accessible in Indonesia is through the use of education technology (EdTech). The World Bank, with help and funding from the Australian government, started the Improving Dimensions of Teaching, Education Management, and Learning Environment (ID-TEMAN) program in 2016.

This program works to analyze educational information from the Ministry of Education and Culture and push Indonesia to reach its full educational potential. The ID-TEMAN program is all about effectively using and appropriating the country’s resources, which are becoming abundantly technological. Indonesia is still working to provide more internet and mobile coverage across rural areas, which would expand educational opportunities through EdTech.

Bright Futures for Indonesian Students

As the world has seen in the past decades, and especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is becoming increasingly efficient through the use of technology. This includes tech-oriented education in Indonesia, with more accessible remote learning in rural areas and initiatives to better prepare students for potential employment opportunities. Technology is the new way of the world, and Indonesian students are gearing up to successfully enter the workforce.

– Hayley Welch
Photo: Flickr

Middle-class jobs in Indonesia
Less than 16% of workers hold middle-class jobs in Indonesia, with the majority of the population earning even less. With the COVID-19 pandemic making it significantly harder for people to maintain jobs, Indonesia is working to increase the number of jobs accessible to those suffering from poverty. However, while Indonesia successfully created 2.4 million jobs every year from 2009 to 2019, few offered middle-class benefits. Providing more middle-class jobs can be beneficial to people living in poverty. There are a few things to prioritize in expanding middle-class jobs to Indonesians in underserved communities. In order to increase the availability of middle-class jobs, it is important to focus on methods that will help people have more job opportunities.

The Benefits of Middle-Class Jobs

Increased availability of middle-class jobs benefits every citizen in Indonesia. Focusing on ways to create middle-class jobs can help alleviate poverty in the nation. Families with middle-class jobs live a better life and have access to essential resources. Middle-class workers enjoy the guarantee of more money and increased outcomes within the workforce. Workers feel more comfortable in a middle-class job with different resources available to guide them.

The Need for Middle-Class Jobs in Indonesia

When it comes to alleviating poverty in Indonesia, middle-class jobs help both those living in poverty as well as those no longer suffering from it. The lack of structural transformation, laborers’ transition across economic sectors over time, plays a huge role in the low number of middle-class jobs. Over the 17-year period from 2000 to 2017, Indonesia’s structural change only contributed 1% value per capita annual growth.

Other areas requiring emphasis include health and education. Only 43% of the labor force completed more than a lower-secondary education. Policies that focus on benefits received from middle-class jobs can encourage more people to want a middle-class job. It is also important to be attentive to different skills that are necessary for certain jobs. This includes informing Indonesians of what they need to know so that the people can be eligible for more opportunities. From emphasizing the importance of school to helping those in need, prioritizing these things can help increase the number of middle-class jobs.

Possible Solutions

There are other barriers preventing the creation of middle-class jobs in Indonesia and contributing to the nation’s poverty. Making adjustments to businesses within the country will make it easier to increase the availability of middle-class jobs. For example, households are responsible for two-thirds of Indonesian jobs, while larger employers and companies are scarce. There needs to be more focus on creating policies such as tax incentives and providing resources for workers. Another thing to consider is increasing middle-class jobs by improving the country’s workforce. Teaching younger citizens the skills essential to current jobs is one way to accomplish this.

On Track to Success

The COVID-19 pandemic brought more challenges to Indonesia, which resulted in many citizens not having employment. Some areas that need more attention to increase the availability of middle-class jobs are the education system and manufacturing industries. It is also important for the government to create policies to help workers. Indonesians will greatly benefit from working middle-class jobs with increased pay and greater access to much-needed resources. With these measures, one can be optimistic about alleviating Indonesia’s poverty levels.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

Addressing the Indonesian Oxygen CrisisIndonesia is currently a major COVID-19 hotspot. In light of the Delta variant’s arrival, Indonesia’s total number of coronavirus cases significantly increased in June 2021 and continued to grow in July 2021. The outbreak is one of the worst in the region. As a result of the outbreak, oxygen is in short supply in Indonesia. With many Indonesian hospitals at full capacity, it is difficult for Indonesia’s COVID-19 patients to access adequate medical treatment, including oxygen. The provinces of Java and Bali are particularly impacted by the Indonesian oxygen crisis.

The Indonesian Government’s Response to the Oxygen Shortage

The Indonesian oxygen crisis is causing oxygen prices to rise due to scarcity. With oxygen cylinders now costing approximately $120, oxygen is becoming inaccessible for people with low incomes. As coronavirus cases increase, the discrepancy between the number of oxygen tanks available and the oxygen tanks needed is growing.

The Indonesian national government sought to alleviate the oxygen crisis by seeking foreign aid. The Indonesian government requested aid from many countries to help with the oxygen shortage, which it received. The government also instructed oxygen producers to prioritize making medical oxygen and extended emergency COVID-19 procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Local officials are also working to minimize the shortage by preventing unnecessary oxygen acquisition. Seeking to prevent panicked stockpiling, officials in Jakarta asked residents not to hoard oxygen in order to prevent civilians from exacerbating the crisis by preemptively buying oxygen and artificially increasing the demand for oxygen.

Organizations and Businesses Step in

Private initiatives are also helping combat the Indonesian oxygen crisis. Action Our Indonesia Movement (GITA) is a volunteer-run group in Indonesia working to provide oxygen at a lower cost than hospitals. The organization allows Indonesians in need of oxygen to rent cylinders at a lower cost than what hospitals can provide. GITA owns 400 oxygen cylinders that it received through donations. Its work does not solve the problem of the shortage of oxygen to fill cylinders with, but it does help make oxygen accessible to Indonesians of all income levels.

Indonesian businesses are contributing to oxygen relief efforts in a variety of ways. Ranging from oxygen donations to assistance with oxygen transportation logistics, Indonesian companies and state-owned enterprises are providing vital relief during the Indonesian oxygen crisis.

Responses From Outside of Indonesia

Governments and organizations across the world are working to help resolve the Indonesian oxygen crisis. Several governments responded to Indonesia’s request for oxygen support, including the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the United States. The aid came in the form of much-needed medical supplies, including medical oxygen.

Corporations are donating to relief efforts in Indonesia. Google made a $1 million donation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Indonesia for COVID-19 relief efforts. Singapore-based companies, such as DBS Bank, Singtel and CapitaLand Hope Foundation, provided the Indonesian state with oxygen concentrators.

Nonstate actors are also providing vital support to Indonesia. UNICEF sent medical oxygen as well as vaccines to Indonesia to mitigate the current crisis and prevent it from worsening. The Red Cross is assisting with oxygen distribution efforts in Indonesia.

These collective efforts will ensure that the nation can overcome the Indonesian oxygen crisis, providing an inspiring example of a united international community amid a global health pandemic.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in IndonesiaRenewable energy in Indonesia will improve if the country continues to tap into geothermal energy. Indonesia is the second leading source of geothermal energy in the world. Yet, only 5% of the reservoirs are actually in use according to the NS Energy and U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unfortunately, geothermal energy is expensive to investors. However, a nonprofit organization called the Indonesian Geothermal Association (INAGA) is helping pave the way to unlocking an enormous renewable energy source in Indonesia.

What is Geothermal Energy?

Below the earth’s crust, magma heats pools of water. The heated water pools provide renewable energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory explains that “There are three types of geothermal power plants: dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle.” Each of the three systems converts the water into steam. Whenever someone uses the water, it undergoes recycling and goes back into the earth so that people can use it later. The harvested steam is geothermal energy.

As the world heads away from fossil fuels and global warming, geothermal energy could be an absolute game-changer for the industrial country and the Earth. The largest benefit is that geothermal energy is renewable. According to Stanford MAHB, experts expect that fossil fuels will run out in the next century. Indonesia already experienced nationwide blackouts and air pollution due to a lack of fossil fuels. However, geothermal energy may be a beneficial solution.

Indonesia’s High Geothermal Potential

Many know Indonesia’s location as the Ring of Fire, an area with the most volcanoes on Earth. Home to 147 volcanos, 76 of which are active, the area is very hot underneath the surface. Volcanoes contain much magma, which will allow for the successful harvesting of geothermal energy in Indonesia. Because of its location, Indonesia has 40% of the world’s stores for geothermal energy. Additionally, Indonesia contains 29,000 megawatts of renewable geothermal energy.

Cost of Geothermal Energy

Although Indonesia is moving toward using more of its geothermal energy, there are a few major obstacles that the country must face. World Bank country director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, Rodrigo A. Chaves, says that “Financing for exploration drilling has been among the main barriers for geothermal expansion in Indonesia.”

Additionally, Think Geoenergy explains that “The Indonesian government projects geothermal investment needs of up to” about “$29.39 billion to boost the installed capacity of geothermal power plants (PLTP) to reach 8,008 MW by 2030.” Money for drilling is one of the largest conflicts to building more geothermal energy plants. However, a nonprofit organization, the Indonesian Geothermal Association, is working toward creating a smooth path.

Mitigating the Cost of Geothermal Drilling

As organizations such as INAGA advocate for more geothermal energy, the Indonesian government is taking notice. While there is a recent decrease in the budget for geothermal energy plants, the government decided to prioritize drilling wells in Cisolok, West Java and Nage in 2022.

Government organization, Geological Agency of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM), using the State Revenue and Expenditure Budget (APBN), will be working on drilling upcoming wells, which may reduce the cost of geothermal energy electricity. The government could allow incentives to developers to decrease the price of electricity.

Other Efforts of INAGA

The Indonesian Geothermal Association is working to combat the obstacles that blockade Indonesia’s geothermal energy potential. INAGA educates citizens of Indonesia about geothermal energy and advocates for the progression of geothermal projects in Indonesia.

The nonprofit organization also approves new geothermal projects for Indonesia. For example, INAGA recently gave support to a new geothermal establishment called BUMN. BUMN will be a state-owned geothermal plant in Indonesia and will help to harvest more geothermal power, providing more energy to its citizens. Additionally, INAGA is working with the government to create regulations for geothermal energy plants.

More Benefits of Geothermal Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy has explained the many benefits of geothermal energy. For example, geothermal energy is not only predictable and stable but it can also run for 24 hours. Additionally, it is able to control temperatures and produce electricity. Geothermal energy is also capable of reducing the carbon footprint.

The Asian Development Bank has stated that if geothermal energy in Indonesia becomes available, the country may be able to reduce its carbon footprint and help power other countries. Although there are many obstacles to overcome in the process, the Indonesian Geothermal Association is striving to create more renewable energy in Indonesia through the use of geothermal energy.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Illegal Fishing in IndonesiaAs a seafaring country with thousands of islands, Indonesia relies heavily on fishing for food and for economic well-being. Fishing is the main source of income for millions of people in the country and the surrounding region; a decline in the industry could be disastrous for these areas. For this reason, illegal fishing in Indonesia has raised concern as it has strained fish populations in the region and risked the livelihoods of millions of fishers. To combat this issue, USAID partnered with several conservation organizations to implement the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced project. The USAID SEA project is a five-year effort that seeks to protect seafood supplies and promote ethical fishing practices in Indonesia.

What is Illegal Fishing?

When fishing vessels do not possess the proper documentation and equipment required by Indonesian law to fish in Indonesian waters, these vessels engage in illegal fishing. To deter illegal fishing, the Indonesian government mandates that each fishing vessel possesses the necessary licenses and declares its fishing gear. This helps the government collect data on the types of equipment used and the number of vessels in the country. The government limits the number of vessels present at a certain time to prevent overfishing and to ensure fishermen practice ethical fishing techniques.

Impacts of Illegal Fishing

Indonesia is situated in the Coral Triangle, an area encompassing most of maritime Southeast Asia. The Coral Triangle contains more than 2,000 species of coral reef fish, making it one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Moreover, this diversity in fish species directly correlates with why fishing remains an integral part of the region’s economy of the region. As it stands, “the Coral Triangle sustains at least 120 million people.” In Indonesia specifically, the fishing industry employs an estimated 12 million people, which allows the nation to be the second-largest fish producer in the world.

Indonesia’s reliance on ocean life is a fundamental aspect of the country’s way of life, and as such, threats to the fishing ecosystem can have severe consequences. Overfishing has had a detrimental impact on fish populations over the years, illustrated by a 95% decline in fish populations in the region over the last 60 years. Furthermore, destructive fishing practices that use explosives to stun fish — known as “dynamite fishing” — destroy marine habitats, leaving extensive damage. These practices continue to harm the fishing industry in Indonesia. Low incomes for fishers have already led to a decline in professionals in the industry within the last 20 years.

USAID’s SEA Program

The USAID SEA project clamps down on illegal fishing in Indonesia and protects local fisheries by collaborating with local communities. Initiated in 2016, this five-year program worked in the provinces of West Papua, Maluku and North Maluku, where illegal fishing practices have hit fishing communities the hardest. USAID SEA sought direct collaborations with locals to “raise awareness about marine conservation, educate others in their community about these issues and report harmful practices to local authorities.”

Designed to curb illegal fishing in Indonesia, the USAID SEA project helps assure ethical fishing practices. Illegal fishing practices like overfishing deplete fish populations, negatively affect the livelihoods of fishers and hurt the country’s economy. The project raises awareness about the importance of marine conservation and its long-term benefits for these communities. As such, it helps defend a way of life for millions of Indonesian people.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Green Zones for International Tourists
The balance between financial stability and safety is tricky, but after a year of the pandemic, Bali officials are desperate for their citizens to return to a degree of normality. Although green zones may not wholly save Bali’s economy, the initiative will be an incredible step in potentially repairing what the COVID-19 pandemic has broken for the people of Bali. Here is some information about how Bali will open green zones for international tourists in an effort to boost its economy in a safe way.

About Green Zones for International Tourists

Bali intends to open allocated zones called ‘green zones.’ These will include increased COVID-19 health and safety measures to entice tourists to return to Bali. Green zones are the latest idea from the Bali government to help save its economy safely. Bali governor Wayan Koster announced that the arrival of green zones will be available once international borders open.

Green zones will include three different locations; Ubud, Nusa Dua and Sanur. These zones will host tourists and tourist activities as safely as possible while restricting tourists from entering areas that are not green zones. Bali created green zones to entice tourists to come back to Bali to help Indonesia’s economy as a whole as it is one of the most popular islands in Indonesia.

Bali’s three green zones will prioritize the vaccination program to welcome foreign tourists while trying to maintain COVID-19-free travel. These zones will be areas free from COVID-19 through a comprehensive vaccination program for people living and doing activities in the region or zone. These allocated areas in Bali will be under strict health protocols and guidelines to ensure the safety of locals and tourists; tourists may have to quarantine in these areas before traveling to other parts of the island. Denpasar city’s tourism office has started collecting information from restaurants and hotel workers in the Sanur area to ease the vaccination process.

Tourism in Bali

As many tourists travel to Bali for its beauty, tourism is also essential to its workers. The industry roughly makes up 80% of Bali’s economy. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Bali very hard. Between April and June 2020, the island’s economy shrunk by 11%. Bali’s provincial government has estimated that at least 75,000 workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The vaccine rollout and a high compliance rate for COVID-19 protocols among residents are helping reduce COVID-19 cases. If COVID 19 cases continue to drop, as they have in recent months, domestic and international travelers will be able to travel within green zones. Although the country has not set a date to open international borders in Indonesia, Sandiaga Uno, the Indonesian Tourism Minister, has stated that Bali is ready to reinstate its borders.

Looking Ahead

The pandemic has impacted Indonesia’s tourism industry greatly. According to the Asian Development Bank, 9.4% of Indonesia’s population moved below the national poverty line as of 2020. Hopefully, green zones for international tourists will help Indonesia’s tourism get back on track, allowing Indonesian citizens to garner employment and rise out of poverty.

– Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Indonesia
Indonesia is an island country off the coast of Southeast Asia, and the fourth-most populous country in the world, with nearly as many inhabitants as the U.S. The Human Development Index has classified Indonesia as a middle-income country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also stated that COVID-19 poses a significant threat to Indonesia. Below are six facts about the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia.

6 Facts About the Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Indonesia

  1. The pandemic is forcing more people to live in poverty: According to Channel News Asia, as many as five million Indonesians dropped below the poverty line in September 2020, and this number has likely increased further since then. Before COVID-19, Indonesia was making great strides to alleviate poverty. Between 1998 and 2018, the poverty rate fell from 24.2% to 9.66%. During those first few months of the pandemic, poverty has risen by 1.8% and has likely risen higher since.
  2. Past instances of the economic downturn in Indonesia have disproportionately hit the poor: In 2005 and 2006, a global increase in the price of fuel and rice disrupted the Indonesian economy. In this time, the wealthiest 10% of the population experienced only a 0% to 5% decline in expenditure. Meanwhile, the decline for the most impoverished 10% experienced 9% to 12%. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia will likely be similar. Low-income families in Indonesia have had to pawn off essential items, and are often unable to receive healthcare. This means that diseases, injuries and infections hamper their productivity.
  3. Indonesian pharmaceutical companies are running scams involving COVID-19 testing: According to the Indonesian police, as many as 9,000 passengers in a single airport received testing kits that employees of a pharmaceutical company washed in order to reuse rather than new kits, which are necessary for proper testing. Since these kits came from a huge public pharmaceutical company, it is likely that many thousands more received improper test kits. The motive for the scam was financial gain. False test results and unsanitary test kits will spread the disease further and continue to exacerbate poverty.
  4. Malnutrition is an especially serious problem: Indonesians already suffered from malnutrition before the pandemic, resulting in more than seven million stunted children under 5 years of age, according to UNICEF. With the advent of COVID-19, malnutrition has only worsened. The Center for Indonesian Policy Studies suggests that food imports have decreased an estimated 17.11%, and the difficulty of importing food products means that children may not receive vital nutrients for development. According to UNICEF representative Debora Comini, childhood illness and death will escalate without substantial efforts to combat malnutrition.
  5. There is a visible solution to malnutrition: Lawrence Haddad of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) says that fortification can mitigate the problem of malnutrition. Fortification is the addition of key nutrients to staple foods such as wheat and rice. Fortification is also inexpensive, especially if it occurs in bulk. The problem is that there are more than 100,000 independent rice millers in Indonesia, most of who are unaware of fortification. Haddad says that “advocacy and education efforts” are the key to engaging the private sector to help curb malnutrition and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia. As such, GAIN has undergone efforts for practical instruction on fortifying key foods such as vegetable oil.
  6. The Indonesian government is taking serious measures to combat COVID-19: As of January 2021, regulations have passed that require the fortification of vegetable oil with Vitamin A. If observed, this regulation will reduce malnutrition, even if the country remains limited in food supplies. In March 2021, the Indonesian government ordered more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccines, which are key to resuming productivity and alleviating poverty. However, many of the COVID-19 vaccine companies distribute their supply through a private vaccination program. This means that low-to-middle-income countries may not yet have access to vaccines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven dangerous for Indonesia, but various public and private efforts are helping alleviate the situation.  Still, foreign aid will help ensure the recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia.

– Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Inadequate Sanitation In IndonesiaCommunities throughout Indonesia are receiving help with sustainable and clean water access. Sanitation poses a significant threat to the health and safety of people in Indonesia. USAID reports that 2.4 billion people worldwide have inconsistent access to sanitation. The organization predicts that nearly 40% of the world does not use safe toilets. This can significantly increase the spread of infection and disease.

Proper sanitation is crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which are more severe to those living in poverty without access to adequate healthcare. The primary cause of child mortality in Indonesia is diarrhea. Typhoid is also a leading threat to the health of Indonesians. Both diarrhea and typhoid are amplified by inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and limited water supply.

Water Contamination Spreads Disease

According to USAID, “In Indonesia, one in three people does not have access to a flush toilet, latrine or septic system.” Instead, many Indonesians defecate in the streets, which further compromises the health and safety of people living in those communities. Rivers, streams and runoff are often the only water source for residents of rural areas. Without proper resources for treatment, water can carry diseases that are harmful and even deadly to those who consume it.

Only about 7% of wastewater in Indonesia is treated. As a result, many communal water access areas have contaminated water. In impoverished areas, it is not sustainable for communities to continually purchase bottled water. In the capital city, Jakarta, pollution can be found in 96% of the water. There is also a widespread disconnect from infrastructure in residential areas, leaving hundreds of families without consistent access to sanitation.

With the new challenge of the pandemic, Indonesia is facing the highest fatality rate in Asia as a result of inadequate access to sanitation, which is necessary to fight the spread of the disease. When families are struggling to meet their basic needs for consumption and hygiene, regular hand washing and adequate sanitization practices are not a priority.

Educational and Financial Support

Organizations like UNICEF are supporting the government of Indonesia. They help provide more frequent and safe access to sanitation and drinking water. In emphasizing education and health literacy during primary school, UNICEF aims to get ahead of the problem. “Over the past 25 years, the rate of access to sanitation facilities has nearly doubled across the country, increasing from 35% in 1990 to 61% in 2015,” reported USAID. USAID has also greatly contributed to this cause. In 2015, the organization helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians improve their water supply and provided better sanitation to 250,000 people.

The IKEA Foundation is also fighting the issue by providing microfinance loans to Jakarta for the introduction of pipelines and water access to rural residential areas. Families living in low-income areas are spending a lot of money to purchase water. With the installation of pipelines and clean well systems, sanitary water is becoming more accessible and affordable to those who need it most.

Ally Reeder
Photo: Flickr

empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr