Child Poverty in Indonesia
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

Looking Ahead

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
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Indonesia
As a burgeoning upper-middle-income country that has dedicated decades to development, Indonesia has made remarkable strides in poverty reduction. However, the tragedies of poverty still plague Indonesia and, in particular, are affecting children across the archipelago. Even so, Save the Children in Indonesia is doing life-changing work to mitigate child poverty in Indonesia through a holistic approach that includes immediate relief and programs that help develop young people to subsist in a 21st-century economy.

Indonesian Development: 1960 to 1997

Today, Indonesia is the 10th-largest economy and a member of the coveted G20 organization, making it one of the world’s largest and most influential economies. Yet, to get to this economic level, Indonesia has had to marshal many economic ups and downs over the last six decades.

Between 1960 and 1967, Indonesia’s GDP per capita was a measly -.05%. This was largely due to the economy having a heavy focus on agricultural production. Nonetheless, the economy’s structure substantially changed over the next couple of decades, moving toward a process of urbanization, industrialization and a general opening up of the economy to the outside world. The reformation of the economy resulted in the GDP per capita jumping to 5.3% between 1983 and 1996.

Still, the 1997 Asian financial crisis substantially reversed decades of progress. Although the crisis began in Thailand when the government turned the local currency, the baht, into a floating currency; it had destructive effects on the rest of the Asian economies, particularly on Indonesia’s economy. By 1998, the rupiah, Indonesia’s national currency, lost 30% of its value, its private-sector debt exploded, inflation reached 65% and GDP growth was at a staggering -13.6%.

Naturally, the financial shock increased the rate of poverty in the country. The poverty rate jumped to 24.2% in 1998 from 17.7% in 1996, and in 1998, the GDP per capita contracted by 13%.

Indonesia’s Successful Fight Against Poverty: 2005 to 2025

After years of a slow and fragile post-crisis recovery, in 2005, the Indonesian government stepped up its fight against economic contraction and poverty with the National Long-Term Development Plan 2005-2025 (RPJPN). The plan set up three general development goals for Indonesia that the country codified in the preamble of the Indonesian constitution of 1948. These goals include an Indonesia developed and self-reliant, just and democratic and peaceful and united. The plan comprises four stages with each stage correlating with a newly elected administration that will tailor the project to its agenda.

The plan’s implementation over 15 years has included investment in infrastructure, human capital, health and wellness, science and technology, improving exports and developing Indonesia’s competitive advantages.

The plan’s success is borne out in the numbers: between 2014 and 2018, the GDP grew by 5% annually and, as one might expect, the unemployment rate decreased significantly with more than 9 million jobs created in the process. As a result, the poverty rate has been cut by nearly half since 1999 to 9.78%.

What About the Children?

Although Indonesia’s development strategy has paid dividends in reducing poverty, it has not been sufficient to keep many from falling through the cracks. Nowhere is the need to do more, more tragically clear than with the plight of children. For instance, 57% of Indonesian children “grow up in families living on less than twice the national poverty line.”

Moreover, although Indonesia has reached a near-universal education status, 14% of school-age children are out of school while 7% work in child labor.

Regarding health, one in 21 girls between ages 15 and 19 gives birth and 36% of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. Most sobering, however, is that one child in 40 dies before their 5th birthday, a rate that is four times that of the United States of America.

Save the Children and Child Poverty in Indonesia

Save the Children in Indonesia has been working in Indonesia for more than three decades to assist the government in providing relief for children across the country. The organization provides immediate relief in disasters, such as in 2019 after a deadly earthquake and tsunami. Just six months following the disaster, it set up shelters, clinics and temporary schools to provide necessary health care, water and hygiene supplies.

The organization has also managed a more holistic approach that meets immediate survival needs and cultivates young people to thrive in a modern economy. For example, the organization provides sponsorship programs that support “knowledge, behavior and physical growth” while also training teachers and principals on classroom management and academic skills. To this end, it also contributes to healthy learning environments by providing educational materials and hygienic supplies.

Perhaps Save the Children’s most ambitious and vital program for reducing poverty is its Youth Employment Program. Targeted toward the youth between the ages of 15 and 24, this program teaches skills to foster employability to create economic opportunities. The program has seen 5,000 young people graduate from employability skills training and has enrolled 3,600 in vocational training.

Indonesia has made significant strides in reducing poverty since the Asian financial crisis of 1997. However, the benefits of development often leave children out. As the government strives to fill in the cracks of those left behind, Save the Children in Indonesia is actively working toward eliminating child poverty in Indonesia by giving children a chance.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr