Indonesia Population and Language
Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. A clear majority of the residents are descended from Malay people who migrated from the Asian mainland in the 500s before Christ. The population is divided into a large number of people groups (according to some sources 400), many of whom speak their own languages and have their own cultures.
Almost half of the residents are Javanese, who now also live on islands other than Java. The Sundanese, the second largest population group, are mainly found in western Java, while the Maduras come from the island of Madura, northeast of Java. A number of ethnic groups live on Sumatra, of which Minangkabau is the largest. Batak is a collective name for a number of people groups in central Sumatra. The Balinese in Bali are another significant population group.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Indonesia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Despite the Indonesian government’s previous assimilation policy, the original Papuan tribal population of Papua has retained many of its cultural features. The asthmatic people, who until the 1950s practiced head hunting and cannibalism, still support themselves as collectors and hunters.
There is a significant Chinese minority in the country (uncertain estimates speak of about 3 million to 4 million Chinese). The Chinese are expected, despite being few, to control a large part of the private economy. This has given rise to jealousy and persecution from the rest of the population. The Chinese were particularly hard hit during the street ravages that preceded President Suharto’s fall in 1998 (see Modern History).
Although population growth is not as rapid as during the first decades after independence in 1949, it is still a problem. Population growth, thanks in part to a family planning program with the motto “two children is enough”, has decreased from 2.3 percent a year in the 1960s to 1.1 percent at the end of the 2010s. Indonesia’s population is young; In 2018, just over one in four Indonesians were estimated to be under 15, while only 5 percent had reached the age of 65.
The residents are unevenly distributed among the islands. Around 80 percent of the population lives in Java, Bali and Madura, which together make up eight percent of the land area. The least populated are Papua, Sulawesi and Kalimantan. Since the beginning of the 20th century, various regimes have sought to reduce the population pressure in Java and Bali through population migration programs. The immigrants have often come into conflict with the indigenous people on land rights. Since the fall of the Suharto regime, the migration has declined sharply.
According to some data, nearly 700 languages are spoken in Indonesia, but most sources expect more than 400 languages. Only 13 languages are spoken by more than one million people. The largest is Javanese, spoken by about 85 million, followed by Sundanese, which is spoken by perhaps 30 million. The country’s official language, Bahasa Indonesia, is the native language of about 15 million Indonesians. Bahasa Indonesia has evolved from Malay, which, before it became Indonesian national language for centuries, had served as a trading language in the area. Bahasa Indonesia serves as a communication link between Indonesians with different native languages. Most residents speak two or more languages.
Closely related variants of Malay are official languages in Malaysia (where the language is called Bahasa Malaysia) and Brunei. In 1972, a spelling reform was implemented so that the Malay, written with the Latin alphabet, is spelled equally in the three countries. The Malay belongs to the Austronesian language family, as most major languages in the country do. In Papua, a large part of the residents speak Papuan languages. The old colonial language Dutch is still understood by some older people, but the most common European language is now English.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
large majority of Malay people (largest groups are Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese); minorities of, for example, Papuan, Micronesian and Melanesian peoples and Chinese
Number of residents
263 991 379 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
54.7 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
19.0 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
7.1 per 1000 residents (2016)
1.1 percent (2017)
2.4 number of children born per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
49.7 percent (2017)
69 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
71 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
67 years (2016)
Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, in addition, about 400 local languages are spoken (of which Javanese and Sundanese are the largest).
Demonstrations for higher minimum wage
Hundreds of thousands of people around the country demonstrate with demands for increased monthly minimum wages. Costs of living have increased since the Widodo government cut fuel subsidies a month earlier.
Fuel prices are rising
As planned, the Widodo government is reducing subsidies on gasoline and diesel, resulting in a price increase of just over 30 percent. The measure is taken to reduce central government expenditure and to achieve a better balance in foreign trade. The decision leads to smaller demonstrations than expected, but queues at gas stations in the Jakarta area are growing rapidly as people bunk fuel for the price increase.
Widodo appoints female foreign minister
A week after he formally became president, Widodo presents his new government. Indonesia gets for the first time a female Foreign Minister, former Ambassador Retno Lestari Marsudi. The Ministry of Finance receives two financial experts as top executives. Nearly half of the government members are politicians closely allied with Widodo and Megawati. The appointment of Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense Minister receives criticism. He has previously been Army Chief and has a disputed reputation in terms of human rights. He is also a close ally of Megawati. Megawati’s daughter, Puan Maharani, also receives a ministerial post. Eight of the 34 ministers are women.
Widodo is sworn in as president
Joko Widodo is installed as president at a ceremony in parliament. Currently there are, among others, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Widodo and his Vice President Yusuf Kalla are then taken by horse and carriage to the Presidential Palace, where they are met by outgoing President Yudhoyono. Media describes the atmosphere in Jakarta as hilarious and festive.
Subianto’s party promises to support Widodo
For the first time since the July 2014 presidential election, the loser Subianto congratulates President Widodo on the victory. He adds that he has asked his party Gerindra to support the president’s policy in Parliament’s House of Commons (DPR).
Opposition in majority in parliament
The newly elected MPs will take their seats on October 1st. Over 60 percent of the seats are held by Subianto’s six-party Alliance Red and White Coalition, which stands in strong opposition to Widodo and the PDI fight. The alliance includes Gerindra and Golkar, among others. Estimates fear that Widodo will be thwarted by Parliament’s majority and thus have trouble implementing its reform policy for improved infrastructure, reduced fuel subsidies and better community service. Parliament’s House of Commons (DPR) decides that mayors and provincial governors should be elected by provincial parliaments instead of direct elections, which has been falling since 2005. Direct elections were then introduced to make it difficult for already established politicians to choose only close allies. The decision is a severe setback for the PDI fight and Widodo who strongly opposed this change with the motivation to weaken democracy. Widodo himself has been directly elected to both Jakarta Governor and President and is not considered to have strong ties to the traditional, often military, elite.
Islamic State ideology is prohibited
The government bans the extremist Islamist group Islamic State (IS) ideology, as it contradicts the Indonesian state ideology pancasila (see Political system). The government states that websites with IS-inspired content should be blocked and that Indonesian citizens planning trips to conflict areas in the Middle East and South Asia will be monitored. Indonesian counterterrorism authorities say at least 30 civilians have traveled to Iraq or Syria to fight for IS there.
Widodo’s rolling victory is confirmed
All nine judges in the Constitutional Court reject Subianto’s appeal of the election results and confirm Widodo’s victory in the presidential election. Subianto says he accepts the court’s ruling.
Relations with Australia are improving
Indonesia and Australia conclude a special agreement that resolves the diplomatic crisis caused by the eavesdropping scandal in the fall of 2013 (see November 2013). Thus, the interrupted cooperation on, for example, human trafficking and intelligence can be resumed.
IS feared to inspire Indonesian extremists
Concerns are raised that radical Islamist leaders and groups in Indonesia have been inspired by the Islamic State (IS) Extreme Islamist Group’s advance in northern Iraq (see Iraq, calendar). Islamist leader Abu Bakar Baasyir expresses his support for IS from the prison cell.
Widodo gives priority to economic growth
After the election victory, Widodo says his government should prioritize increased economic growth so that it is back up to 7 percent. This will be done through investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and human capital (education, poverty reduction). Widodo appoints a transition team to propose ministers and a political program at the end of September.
Widodo wins the presidential election
The choice is calm. Opinion surveys show that Widodo and Subianto are even. Both candidates proclaim themselves victors before the election results are published. On July 22, the Election Commission announces that Widodo has won in the presidential election with 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for Subianto. Subianto says that serious election fraud has occurred and initiates an appeal process in the Constitutional Court which is rejected.
The electoral movement before the presidential election begins
The election campaign for the July 9 presidential election begins. Subianto, who was the commander of the army’s special forces during the Suharto era, is sharply criticized by the resistance camp for his role as military commander under Suharto. Subianto was fired from the army in 1998 after a government-appointed commission found him ultimately responsible for human rights violations committed by the military in connection with Suharto’s fall. Among other things, a large number of students were taken away and several were killed by special forces. Despite this, opinion polls show that Subianto is quickly catching up on Widodo’s lead during the election campaign.
PDI-P wins in parliamentary elections
The official election results will be announced on May 15. Ten of the twelve parties running for election will be in the DPR. PDI-P is moving forward as expected, becoming the winner of the election with 109 seats in DPR (19 percent of the vote). However, this means that the party has not progressed as strongly as several opinion polls have shown and that PDI-P alone cannot launch Widodo as presidential candidate, but must form an alliance. The second largest party will be Golkar with 91 seats (15 percent). Trea will lead Gerindra with the former General Prabowo Subianto in the lead. Gerindra increases from 26 seats in the 2009 election to a full 73 seats (12 percent of the vote). The Democratic Party (DP) is going through a strong cancer cycle and gets 61 seats (10 percent). The four Muslim parties come next: PAN gets 49 seats (7.6 percent), PKB wins 47 seats (9 percent), PKS receives 40 seats (7 percent) and PPP 39 seats (6.5 percent). Media mogul Saloh’s Nasdem Party gets into the DPR by winning 35 seats (6.7 percent) and former General Wiranto’s Hanura party gets 16 seats (5 percent). The turnout is around 73 percent.
Increased voter support for PDI-P
Twelve parties are running in the national parliamentary elections. It should be compared to 38 parties in the elections in 2009. No party has dominated in the opinion polls made before the election, but PDI-P seems to have advanced strongly since Jakarta’s governor Joko Widodo, former furniture retailer and mayor of Solo, decided to run for office. party. President Yudhoyono’s DP appears to be backing heavily because, according to the constitution, Yudhoyono is not allowed to stand for a third term in this summer’s presidential election and because the party has been burdened by a series of corruption scandals during the last term.
The fight against corruption becomes the most important issue
Around 187 million Indonesians have the right to vote in the April 9 elections to the national parliament in Jakarta and to the provincial assemblies around the country. As many as 200,000 candidates are running for the approximately 19,000 seats to be added, including 560 seats in the National Parliament’s lower house (DPR). The big issue is the fight against corruption.
Joko Widodo is running for president
The opposition party PDI-P announces that Jakarta’s popular governor Joko Widodo has been named the party’s presidential candidate in the July elections.
Death sentence for murder on Indonesian maid in Malaysia
A court in Malaysia sentenced a Malaysian couple to death by hanging for the murder of its Indonesian maid. The 26-year-old woman died of starvation in June 2011 at a hospital in Malaysia. During her 2.5 years in the couple’s home, she had lost weight from 46 kilos to 26 kilos. According to the court, she had been denied both food and medicine. The verdict comes after Indonesia and Malaysia signed an agreement to improve the situation of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, where they have often been treated poorly. Before the agreement was signed, Indonesia had banned its citizens from working as maids in neighboring countries because of allegations of harassment and abuse.
Fatwa is issued against poaching
The country’s highest religious council, the Indonesian Ulama Council, issues a fatwa (religious ban) on poaching and smuggling of wildlife and plants. The Council says it is immoral and unlawful to carry out acts that threaten endangered animals and their habitats. Indonesia houses a variety of endangered animal species such as elephants, tigers and orangutans. In addition to poaching and smuggling, which are already prohibited by Indonesian law, activities that threaten the animals are also forestry and the expansion of agriculture and cities.
Dispute with Australia about boat refugees
Indonesia condemns Australia for allowing its neighboring fleet to enter Indonesian waters and forcing boat refugees on their way to Australia via Indonesia. The government in Canberra apologizes for the violations of Indonesian territory. Indonesia requires Australia to cease similar actions until previous violations are investigated. Indonesia moves combat ships and fighter jets to the border with Australia.
Exports of unprocessed metals are prohibited
Indonesia faces a controversial ban on exports of unprocessed metals. The government states that the purpose is to stimulate domestic mining and thereby contribute to a greater proportion of the profits from the mining industry staying in the country. The critics, however, warn of mass redundancies in the industry; the country’s chamber of commerce fears that around 800,000 jobs will be at risk. Some analysts also warn that Indonesia’s growing trade deficit will increase further. After a long discussion, the two largest mining companies operating in the country, American Freeport-MaMoRan and Newmont, are temporarily exempted from the ban.