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Indonesia Country Context Paper

Indonesia Country Context Paper

This country context paper provides an overview of Indonesian women’s participation in the labour market and as entrepreneurs, and identifies key barriers to women’s economic empowerment in Indonesia.

The paper provides a snapshot of the many factors that either facilitate or inhibit women’s economic empowerment in Indonesia, focusing on: laws and their implementation; social norms; access to markets and productive assets; business and work; and political representation. The report also considers the key actors and institutions that are driving or resisting policy reforms that promote gender equality in the world of work, and provides recommendations for addressing the underlying causes of gender gaps.


Women in Indonesia have always been relatively economically active. However, while Indonesia is ranked 88 on the Global Gender Index, it falls to 107 on Economic Participation and Opportunity. There are no serious national legal barriers to women’s participation in the formal sector workforce, in entrepreneurship, or in leadership positions in the public and private sectors, nor to their ownership of assets or access to finance and markets.

However, cultural and structural factors – most notably the pervasive belief that care of home and family is a woman’s responsibility as well as poor social infrastructure – have led to a situation where women are less likely than men to be in the workforce, to own productive assets or own or manage medium or large companies, or to exercise economic leadership at the community or national level. Moreover, while it is difficult to quantify the social and economic costs to Indonesia of not removing barriers to women’s economic empowerment, it is clear that both are significant, and should be addressed as a matter of priority.

Women in Indonesia have a strong presence in the informal employment sector, accounting for 74% of those employed as unpaid or family workers and 38% of own account workers. There is significant variation in the barriers and facilitators of women’s economic empowerment across Indonesia’s many hundreds of ethnic groups. These differences are reflected in women’s involvement in the paid workforce. As of 2003, female labour force participation varied from 31% in Sulawesi to 57% in the areas of Indonesia beyond Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Importantly, these variations in female labour participation rates reflect local economic circumstances rather than religious lines.


  • Introduction
    • Indonesia’s political economy
    • Policy priorities at national level
  • Part one: Legal and regulatory frameworks and their implementation
    • How Indonesia’s legal and regulatory frameworks deal with women
      • The constitution and broad policy instruments
      • Laws and regulation on ownership of assets
      • Business
      • Employment-related conditions
    • Institutions responsible for women’s economic empowerment
    • Institutions responsible for implementation and enforcement
      • Policy oversight
      • Enforcement / remedy mechanisms for labour-related grievances
    • Implementation in practice
  • Part two: Social norms and unpaid care work
    • Social norms that constrain women’s economic empowerment
    • Gender distribution of unpaid care work
  • Part three: Access to assets, finance and markets
    • Access to and control over productive assets compared with men
    • Conscious and unconscious bias in access to financing
  • Part four: Business culture and practices
    • Women at work
    • Business practices and culture
    • Entrepreneurial skills and training
  • Part Five: Women’s visibility, collective voice and representation
    • Visibility and collective voice in the household
    • Visibility and collective voice in the community and at the national level
  • Part six: Summary
    • Gendered assumptions about the role of women
    • Regulation, policy and practice
    • Evidence-based policy-making
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