Young children between the ages of 0 and 14 made up almost 26% of the population in Indonesia in 2020. Moreover, according to UNICEF, about 2.1 million children endure child poverty in Indonesia in 2021. Taking a closer at the country’s circumstances of child poverty provides insight into the severity of the situation.
5 Facts About Child Poverty in Indonesia
- Secondary Education Completion Lags Behind. In Indonesia, the net primary school enrollment rate stood at 93% in 2018, however, in that same year, the net secondary school enrollment rate stood at 78%. The reason for this disparity stems from the fact that Indonesia offers free education only up until grade 9, meaning, the next three years of secondary education that follow are not free. This serves as a barrier to secondary school completion as many impoverished families cannot afford the costs. Additionally, some families suffer from such severe poverty that they require their children to work to add to the household income instead of going to school. Many parents also pull their daughters out of school to shoulder the burden of household responsibilities because they do not see girls’ education as valuable in comparison to boys’ education. In addition, in impoverished communities, child marriage is prevalent. Many families resort to taking their daughters out of school and pushing them into a child marriage to ease the economic burden on the family.
- Child Labor is Rife in Indonesia. In 2020, the number of child laborers in Indonesia equated to 1.17 million, with many working in agriculture. The prevalence of child labor stems from circumstances of poverty as well as a lack of access to education. Indonesia pledged to eradicate child labor by 2022, and although it has not fully achieved this goal, it has made significant progress. Between 2009 and 2018, Indonesia reduced the number of child laborers from 4 million to 2.9 million by improving access to quality education to prevent children from dropping out of school and engaging in labor. The nation also has a commitment to informing parents about the importance of children’s education.
- Child Marriage is Prevalent. Child marriage is more common in impoverished/rural communities. According to UNICEF, Indonesian girls from families “with the lowest levels of expenditure” are nearly “five times more likely” to enter a marriage or union before the age of 18. In addition, girls from rural Indonesia “are three times more likely to marry before age 18” in comparison to urban Indonesian girls. Over a span of 10 years, child marriage rates in Indonesia reduced by 3.5%, although this rate is still far from the goal of 8.74% for 2024. UNICEF also states that one in nine Indonesian girls enter into marriage before the age of 18, which equates to 375 girls marrying each day.
- Poverty Impacts Future Earnings. According to a study that the Asian Development Bank Institute published in September 2019, Indonesian children who grow up in circumstances of poverty are likely to earn less in their adulthood. The study says, “Our instrumental variables estimation shows that a child who lived in [an impoverished] family when aged between 8 and 17 years old suffers an 87% earnings penalty relative to a child who did not grow up in [an impoverished] family.”
- Save the Children Addresses Child Poverty in Indonesia. The global children’s organization has provided assistance to Indonesia’s impoverished children for more than 30 years. Save the Children has also provided emergency assistance for almost all of Indonesia’s natural disasters. When a severe earthquake and tsunami hit Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, Save the Children supplied water, shelter, hygiene supplies and healthcare to children and families. Emergency responders provided assistance to more than 70,000 affected children. Child sponsorship programs beginning in 2014 ensure children learn the knowledge and skills necessary for success and ensure the overall health and nutrition of children. All in all, Save the Children has provided more than 23,000 “[Indonesian] children with a healthy start in life” and “protected 45,079 children from harm” while supporting more than 11,000 families in meeting their children’s basic needs.
Although the situation of child poverty in Indonesia is improving, disparities remain. Geographical differences lead to inequalities between different regions, which directly affects the country’s children. The fact that the nation comprises 17,000 islands spanning about 3,200 miles makes it very difficult to assist all population groups. Regarding the nation’s economic development, since 2016, Indonesia maintained annual GDP growth of around 5% until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With ongoing efforts to reduce child poverty in Indonesia, impoverished Indonesian children can look to a brighter future.
– Ander Moreno