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Inequalities in Indonesia

Together with the rest of the world’s governments, Indonesia has committed to the goal of combating inequalities both within and between countries as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 10). At the national level, Indonesia has demonstrated its commitment to SDG 10 through its National Medium-term Development Plan for 2020-2024, which aims to reduce inequalities between regions and between population groups among its seven high-level development agendas.

Practically, Indonesia’s SDG roadmap aims to reduce inequalities through a package of “pro-poor” and vulnerability sensitive growth policies. This includes fiscal policies that favour redistribution, making the tax system more fair, improved policies for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, strengthening the rural economy, changes to land access and stabilising food prices.

But the problem of inequality in Indonesia is still substantial, and goes back many decades: from the colonial period to the unsettled years after independence, to a period of intensive growth under authoritarian rule, to an economic crash and recovery. According to the World Inequality Report, the situation today is that the richest 10 per cent of the population earns about 19 times as much as the poorest 50 per cent of Indonesians. Despite a significant increase in average income in Indonesia from the 1950s until today, the gap between rich and poor has not decreased, and is nearly as wide today as the widest gaps in recent decades.

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While Indonesia saw some positive progress on some inequality measures prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, gaps still remain to be filled. Levels of poverty in underdeveloped districts are declining much too slowly. Further increases in social security spending is needed. The majority of informal workers do not have workers’ insurance, and many development efforts are being carried out without adequate consultation. Efforts to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic are critical at this point.

End Inequalities in Indonesia
End Inequalities in Indonesia

A key driver – gender-based discrimination

Indonesia has committed to various international conventions that uphold gender equality and promote the economic empowerment of women. Additionally, goals for women’s empowerment are included in the President’s national development agenda. A presidential order on the mainstreaming of gender into national development also compels all levels of government agencies and institutions to integrate efforts to realise gender justice through their respective functions.

Despite various commitments and a wide range of programmes and policies, numerous gaps remain. In some cases, ambitious targets are not supported by realistic plans, and there are many mismatches between what has been promised by the state and the lived experience of women.

Women in Indonesia bear a disproportionate share of the impact of Indonesia’s economic inequalities. Women are less likely than men to participate in the labour market (55 per cent versus 84 per cent). They are over-represented in the informal economy, spend much more of their time doing unpaid care work than men, receive lower wages (on average 23 per cent less than men) and face greater barriers to improving their economic situation. The World Economic Forum ranks Indonesia at 92 out 146 countries on its Global Gender Gap Index.

The change we need

Women from various walks of life from across Indonesia have discussed their struggles, expressed their concerns, found their common priorities and formulated the changes they want to see:

Protect women’s economic rights

Ensure women’s economic protection – including women informal workers – by providing guaranteed access to support services, access to business licences for poor women and access to capital and markets.

Recognise and support women's initiatives

Provide support for women’s initiatives in economic development, including by protecting the community economic resources that make these initiatives possible.

Do development responsibly, respectfully, and inclusively

Stop development programmes that violate human rights and women’s rights and destroy the environment, as well as climate change response projects that ignore human rights. Ensure the full involvement of women with diverse identities in every stage of policy-making and the approval of development programmes. Prioritise projects that are gender responsive and environmentally sustainable.

Revoke the Omnibus Law on job creation

Revoke the Job Creation Law (Omnibus Law), which makes it easier for the state and/or companies to carry out land grabbing, environmental destruction and the exploitation of natural resources, and threatens women’s lives and livelihoods, including via the increased criminalisation of women human rights and environmental defenders.

Stop sexual violence and support economic opportunities for victims

Enforce Law No. 12 of 2022 on the Crime of Sexual Violence (UU TPKS) and guarantee the protection of women victims of sexual violence, by providing legal aid services and safe housing facilities, as well as economic strengthening for victims.

Protect human rights defenders and their role in fighting for economic justice

Discuss and ratify the Bill on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and stop all acts of threats and criminalisation of women human rights and environmental defenders.

Support disaster survivors, including their economic recovery

Protect and fulfil the rights of women disaster survivors (including climate disasters). Support should include housing, access to food, access to economic recovery, protection from threats of sexual violence and support for recovery from trauma.

End Inequalities in Indonesia

Taking action

Civil society organisations involved in the movement to fight for the rights of women across Indonesia are leading the charge to raise the voices of women at the grassroots level who are demanding economic equality:

Capacity building and mobilisation

We consult with, strengthen the capacity of and mobilise women faced with the negative impacts of inequality, and help them to speak up and claim their rights and entitlements to sustainable and meaningful economic opportunities.


We meet directly with decision-makers, present them with the demands of women at the grassroots level, and hold them accountable for the commitments they have made.


We hold press conferences, wave banners, shout slogans, make videos and amplify the voices of grassroots women on social media. By getting the attention of the media and the broader public, we focus attention on perspectives that are often ignored.

Research and analysis

We document the results of consultations with women about their lived experience, and connect this with broader economic and political systems.

The movement

Within this project, two partners are working on tackling inequalities rooted in gender discrimination in Indonesia:

Perkumpulan Aksi! untuk Keadilan Gender, Sosial, dan Ekologi (Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice)

Aksi! works closely with grassroots women’s groups, providing opportunities for them to come together, deepen their understanding of the systems that contribute to the inequalities they experience, and find ways to respond and demand change together.

Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights) (SP)

SP works through its network of thousands of women across its branches throughout Indonesia. Listening closely to the concerns expressed by these women, the organisation can then represent them and support them to engage in dialogue with other stakeholders, participate in demonstrations, campaign on social media, and find other ways to push for change.

The partners in this project work within broader networks that bring together a wide range of CSO and community voices in the fight against economic and gender inequalities:

P23+ Network

A network of women for gender and economic justice, made up of 22 local women’s organisations and Aksi!, that formed spontaneously following a series of consultations and strategy meetings that brought the groups together to understand the interconnections between the personal experiences of inequality and systemic economic and societal factors.