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Published by: Ariane Juliana Utomo, Australian National University

Country / Region: Indonesia

Gender in the Midst of Reforms: Attitudes to Work and Family Roles among University Students in Urban Indonesia

28 November 2015

The article ‘Gender in the Midst of Reforms: Attitudes to Work and Family Roles among University Students in Urban Indonesia’ explores attitudes to work and family roles among senior university students in 2004; the year when people were preparing to elect a President directly for the first time in history, with the incumbent President the first woman in the role.

Using a survey of 1,761 university students from 12 universities in two contrasting urban settings, this paper explores the difference between Indonesian men and women in their attitudes towards gender roles. The paper further explores correlates of gender role attitudes, offering insights on the role of sex, sample sites, gender ratio in faculty, parental role models, religion, and ethno-cultural background.

In the context of societal modernisation and its association with the redefinition of gender roles in the public sphere, this paper examines whether male breadwinner ideals in marriage continue to persist among young and educated urban Indonesians. To date, there is a dearth of survey-based data that can map the prevailing attitudes regarding gender roles among young adults in contemporary Indonesia, and provide insight on how they may vary across different segments of the population. Scoping attitudes to gender roles among young people at the height of a democratic transition facilitates better understanding of gender relations in a changing world.

This paper addresses three research questions:

R1: What are the prevailing attitudes to gender roles among educated young people in the current era of Reforms?

R2: Are there sex and regional differences in the degree of egalitarianism in the respondents’ gender role attitudes?

R3: Will the associations between sex, sample sites and attitudes to gender roles be consistent once individual factors such as religion, ethnicity, gender-ratio in faculty of study, maternal education, and parental role model are accounted for?


  • The majority of young people included in this sample noted the improvement in gender equality between their own and their parents’ generations. Women in the sample tend to be more egalitarian than their male counterparts.
  • The majority of women, and to a lesser extent men, supported the employment of married women. The majority of female respondents were of the opinion that a dual-earner household is an economic necessity. Nevertheless, both sexes tended to uphold the notion that husbands should be the breadwinner for the family.
  • Correspondingly, although respondents were supportive of men’s participation in housework, an egalitarian sharing arrangement of housework and childrearing responsibilities remained an elusive expectation. A considerable proportion of the respondents were seemingly in support of the neo-traditional specialisation of primary responsibilities in earning versus caring within marriage.
  • Such findings are in line with the literature in the West indicating that in the context of modernisation, changing attitudes towards married women’s employment tend to be accompanied by a relatively sluggish transformation of gender division of labour at home.
  • This paper further explored the role of sample sites in shaping the respondents’ attitudes to work and family roles. Although factor analysis suggests that respondents in Jakarta are relatively more egalitarian in their outlook than those in Makassar, the regional effect diminishes once a multivariate approach was applied to one specific attitudinal measure.
  • It appears that the more homogeneous religious make-up of the students in Makassar, the relatively lower proportion of students with tertiary educated mothers in Makassar, and the type of faculties included in the two samples, provide the explanation why students in Makassar had a less egalitarian outlook than their counterparts in Jakarta. For the combined sample, religion, parental role model, mother’s education, and gender-ratio in faculty of study were significant predictors of an egalitarian outlook at the 1% level.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Male Breadwinner Ideals in a Co-Provider Context: A Brief Overview
  • Early to Mid-New Order Era (1966–1980s)
  • Late New Order Era (1990s)
  • The Reform Period (1998 Onwards)
  • Current Study
  • Methods
    • Sample sites
    • Participants
    • Procedure
    • Analytical Method
  • Variables and Measures
    • Dependent variable
    • Independent variable
  • Results
    • Descriptive Analysis
    • Regression Models for Attitudes to Gender Roles
  • Discussion
  • Limitations and Future Directions
  • References

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