Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wants families to stop at two children to prevent a burgeoning population overwhelming schools and services. Asih, a cleaner in Tangerang, near Jakarta, is stopping at seven.
Facing slower investment and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the Asia-Pacific region, the government is concerned the demographic dividend that attracts companies seeking a young, cheap workforce will become an economic time bomb. As Indonesia’s growth slows, the world’s fourth-most-populous nation isn’t generating enough quality jobs to keep up with the population, the International Labour Organization said.
That prospect has brought the revival of a birth-control program begun 46 years ago by former President Suharto, who managed to halve the fertility rate to about 2.6, where it’s been stuck ever since. The government wants to cut the rate to the replacement level of 2.1 within two years to prevent the 250 million population doubling by 2060.
“We have to go back to the policies of the Suharto era, to make strong campaigns and bring the fertility rate down,” said M Sairi Hasbullah, head of Indonesia’s statistics bureau for East Java province. “It’s not going to be easy to provide food, education, health facilities and infrastructure for 500 million people. It’s a big danger for Indonesia.”