Jakarta OverPopulation?

Jun 22nd, 2010, in Opinion, by

Census figures unreliable, are Jakarta and Java are much less populated than is thought?

An Unreliable Census?

I’m a few years now in this interesting land, so I hope some credibility can be given to my possibily seditious ramblings to follow. Mainly, I don’t believe there are over 140 million people residing on beautiful Java.

Evidence…….well let’s start in Jakarta which I lived in for about a year. Traffic in the ‘Big Durian’ is undeniably horrendous during the rush hour. But this city is in my opinion a disaster in terms of urban planning and surfeit of anywhere approaching an adequate transport infrastructure.

Jakarta TrafficNorth-south this city requires to at least treble the current main arterial routes it currently has, at present all traffic is filtered into Jalan Sudirman/Gatot Subroto. Which is equivalent to a one horse town in my opinion.

The “jalan tikus” rat-runs only allow a temporary escape from this trapped pipe of road rage/numbing boredom. Manhattan has 11-13 equivalent routes bi-secting its narrow frame. What’s more it’s so difficult to get off these choked arterials, also added to the mix is a lack of overhead routes for those wishing to get from east-west across it, which means that an east-west journey of one mile “as the crow flies” can end up being 6 miles with an enforced detour via Semanggi roundabout.

There’s no train network to offer relief, then there’s bus-ways clogging up much of the limited viable road space, with the effect that Indonesia’s capital feels much more crowded then it actually is.

Jakarta HousesMore evidence, is the fact that nearly all of Jakarta is a low rise city of bungalows with decent size gardens to the fore and back. These are residents of the middle classes not the wealthy, who have pitched half acre plots in Menteng/Pluit/Kelapa Gading and much of South Jakarta.

Yet more evidence comes from Menteng which I once got lost in at 9.00 at night and had to drive around for 15 mins to find a pedestrian to point me in the right direction. So where in Jakarta do the huge swarming mass that keep the corrupt awake reside?

Muara Angke is possibly Jakarta’s most famous slum, and its tiny, no way there’s more than 30,000 people there. The railway lines and the adjacent humble abodes are shockingly thronged with humanity, but apart from one area near Senen, there is no great mass of people here. The back streets of Kota can be heavily populated, but look at the larger houses adjacent to the narrow laneways. Sorry but parts of London/NY feel as populated to me.

I could go on and on….but what I’m saying is that the population of Jakarta and maybe much of western Java which I am also familiar with is wrong.

My clinching evidence that the census is an unreliable reading is that my friend was counted three times. Once in Depok, where she formerly lived – confirmed by her brother still living there, then in Palu, Central Sulawesi, where she had returned to assist her dying mother as confirmed by her father, and now in Manado where she has been resident for three months.

I can go on and on mentioning more examples of people who told me they were double counted, and analysing small towns in Java that supposedly have populations of two million in their hinterlands, but I’ll leave my last example to Banten and its 9-10 million residents.

TangerangBanten supposedly has about 9 million residents north of the railway line to Rangkasbitung – there are not a million people resident south of this railway line, with much of the area given over to the dwindling Javan Badak and threatened Badui people. Thus that area to the north, roughly the size of greater London, but mainly made up of farms and coastal paddies, has the same population as one of the western world’s most congested cities. Sorry can’t believe there are that many people in Tangerang and Serpong.

Sorry I don’t buy the population of western Java; and feel its deliberately distorted. If I’m right why would a legitimate government allow this practice, deliberate misleading?

37 Comments on “Jakarta OverPopulation?”

  1. john says:

    i wonder how many ppl indomie would estimate live in jkt? their market research team would probably be pretty accurate…

  2. j a says:

    No offense, but I think the figures from the Sensus Penduduk are more reliable than your estimates based on you getting lost in Menteng…

  3. timdog says:

    Is this piece hint-hint, nudge-nudging at one of Indonesia’s enduring conspiracy theories – the frankly rather silly idea that there is deliberate falsification of population data to keep Indonesia as a nominally Muslim-dominated country?

    It’s not all that unusual to hear people suggest that Indonesia is not actually a Muslim-majority country. “Look at the map!” these theorists squeal; “Look at how much geographical territory is Christian-dominated! How can this be a Muslim majority country?”
    Well, the answer to that is rather apparent if you actually go to Timor, Flores or Papua and take a look at the relative lack of fertile land and the consequent lack of population density when compared to Java or parts of Sumatra. It’s an unfortunate myth, and one, I think, that may prove useful to the kind of people who like to burn churches.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if nation-wide, Java-specific or Jakarta-only census figures are out by a factor of several millions, but I’m quite confident that the proportions, area by area, are accurate, and also, that given the scale any inaccuracies are negligable.

    So Jakarta “doesn’t seem that crowded”. Beijing supposedly has a population of 20 million +, but it’s a low-rise city where the traffic’s not too bad, the infrastructure holds up, and there’s little sense of claustrophobia amidst heaving masses. it certainly seems much less crowded than Jakarta.

    What’s more, censuses generally undercount, not the other way around. And that’s especially the case in big cities. I’ve heard it estimated that London (a mere 7 million people) may have as many as a million extra, uncounted residents.
    For every person who gets counted twice or three times, or in the wrong place, I would be willing to bet that there are many others – whole families recently shipped out to a city, or gone back to a village; migrant workers between bases and between jobs, the people with no wish to let the authorities know that son number three, the bad one, is still in the house – who slip through the cracks…

    So anyway, do you have a theory about why this supposed overcounting exists, or is this just an observation?

  4. Winmar says:

    I’d also expect there to be an undercount, if anything. It’s a lot more likely that people will be missed than counted twice.

  5. rustyprince says:

    There was a bit of an edit by the moderator – so the area I got lost in wasn’t Menteng but the military kampung in SE Jakarta.
    Tim, yes its all random observations from taking the motorbike around west Java on about 5-7 occasions and what I recently learned about the census – which incidentally included me, despite I being out of the country when the remumerator visited.
    No Muslim bias, Indonesia is over 80% Islam, and on a side issue I’ve told Christians their attachment to israel within the socio/cultural context of Indonesia is counterproductive – also makes no sense to me.
    After writing the piece, just off the cuff, I checked some of the official figures for Rankasbitung and Pendalagang regencies in Banten – officially 2.5 million. These are two nondescript quiet towns with labuan the only other town of size within the Kabupatans, Bitung in Minahasa is bigger than any of them. Anyway the road from Bogor regency – pop 5million officially to R’Bitung is defo not busy, able to take a leak while looking out over unpopulated tranquil countryside, south of these towns you encounter another vehicle every odd minute, nearly always a loan bike. I found a beach where I swam for an hour without seeing another soul about 20km south of Labuan, Luna and Ariel can pm me for its location, and the beautiful south coast road leading into P’Ratu can feel like a scene from easy rider given the deficit of cars.
    I can move on to Sukabumi, Subang etc and continue in the same vein.
    Wheres all the people?
    And thats exactly my point about Jakarta, the ridiculous infrastructure makes it feel more crowded.
    Theory for falsification? Well if I’m right it has to be basic corruption by the local govt officials so they get more money from Jakarta, which in turn takes huge sums from the outer islands to share equally among all Indonesians, whats that phrase that accompanies the Panscila that only seems to be remembered when its of personal benefit ‘Bhineka…….

  6. realest says:


    My clinching evidence that the census is an unreliable reading is that my friend was counted three times. Once in Depok, where she formerly lived – confirmed by her brother still living there, then in Palu, Central Sulawesi, where she had returned to assist her dying mother as confirmed by her father, and now in Manado where she has been resident for three months.

    Those census officials prolly failed to mention that the census is only applicable to those currently residing the property. I was the last house in my complex to be visited by the census folks at 7 pm and i only include 2 names out of the 5 people in my Kartu Keluarga+2 live-in employees(after showing them the KK ofc) because 3 of them lives outsode jakarta or abroad.

  7. David says:

    The original said

    More evidence, is the fact that nearly all of Jakarta is a low rise city of Bungalows with decent size gardens to the fore and back. These are residents of the middle classes not the wealthy, who have pitched half acre plots in Menteng/Pluit/Kelapa Gading and much of South Jakarta. More evidence comes from the former which I once got lost in at 9.00 at night and had to drive around for 15 mins to find a pedestrian to point me in the right direction.

    I split into two paragraphs and assumed ‘former’ was referring to Menteng, sorry if I messed it up….

  8. Odinius says:

    I don’t know how it can be that accurate, given that so many people residing in Jakarta are transients, moving in and out. But it’s probably as accurate as you’re going to get, so it’s the best possible indicator of population changes.

  9. Hans says:

    How to count the population.
    should not all residents of the area identified for each area’s boss. (R: T).
    If so how can it be wrong, unless someone has a need to lie

  10. kongkor says:

    One thing for sure is that it is better to have a census than not having at all. The last census was done a decade ago and given the time lapse the population shift may have changed dramatically. Give and take some errors here and there, this census will be used as a guide for the government and businesses. So, the question of reliability is really academic.

    I respect the opinion of the writer since everyone has a fundamental right to ones’ own opinion. Having said this, I suppose it is not right just to generalize based on your personal experiences and encounters which tends to based on one’s belief.

  11. timdog says:

    rustyprince – fair enough, and it’s an interesting topic, but I still think that to stake such claims on the basis of nothing more than “what you saw while riding your bike around” is a rather spurious method. And flawed as census techniques always are, I would regard them as a far more reliable gauge of population than going on a weekend bike ride…

    Impressions based on casual observation are misleading. Beijing, as I said, has a population of more than 20 million, but on the face of it seems less “crowded” than either Jakarta or London, both of which in fact have much lower populations.

    I would guess that you have slightly more faith in UK census figures – the UK is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, but take a cross-country train ride, even in England (which accounts for the bulk of the UK population) and you won’t get any sense of people crammed in cheek-by-jowel. Now as someone who also makes a lot of weekend excursions by bike in Java, I would certainly say that even based on casual observation the Javanese countryside does seem much more crowded than that of England (a place of similar size, incidentally), and thereby have no problem with swallowing the idea that the population of Java is roughly double that of the UK.

    And I’d still bet on census undercounting rather than overcounting.

  12. Winmar says:

    My experience of travelling through Javais that it’s hard to get far away from people and houses. The main roads between places are lined with dwellings. There are people everywhere. It is of course a bit dfferent when you get off he main roads, but it’s a bit like England in that you can’t go down a country lane to do a u-turn without someone coming up behind you!

  13. rustyprince says:

    Sorry Patung, you’re right – I’m getting mixed up in my latter/former, and loan above should be lone, deficit of traffic should be dearth in relation to the the south coast road. Good thing I’m not teaching the good citizens Inggris.
    Winmar there a lovely alternatve route only recently resurfaced if you ever wish to avoid traffic on puncak, only a few peaceful villages but for about 10 miles it can feel like your lost in the Pyreeness, it brings one into Cianjur – decent size town.
    Looks like I’m alone in wonderin if there really are 130+ million on Java which is almost exactly the same size as England, population 52+ if I’m not wrong. A quick search told me Java is about 48% urban and England 80% which Tim correctly states still possesses rustic rural charm.
    Well I’m very fond of Java and its people, and the rice paddies and plantations they’ve carved into the mountainsides and writing this made me recall the two Sufi mystics i came upon who were ambling down a jalan becek & hancur near Ujung Kulon. so I’m happy to report that despite being one of the most populous places on the earth Java has many places where time feels it has stood stiill.

  14. Hans says:

    Perhaps these RT get a bonus for every resident in their area. This could mean that a carpenter from Malang who work in Jakarta, both counted in Malang and Jakarta

  15. Pena Budaya says:

    I trust population survey by Indonesian Statistic Office – BPS. I found they are reliable – I used to use their data for my study and research.

    Anyway, I think population survey was based on Kartu Keluarga (Family Card), am I correct? In my experience about this kartu keluarga, as you moved to other place you have to de-register yourself from the family card by reporting it to ketua RT/RW and later to Kelurahan and get new ID card (KTP) as you move. Unfortunately there are some Indonesians who don’t know of this procedure or perhaps just too lazy to do paper work. Currently, it could be a big trouble if you have multiply KTPs or which means being registered in several family cards as I understand that tax authorities tried to catch down people based on KTP. I heard from a friend who live permanently aboard but still keeping his KTP in Indonesia under his parent’s address that he received a tax payment request & report fom Indonesia tax authorities sent to his parent’s address. Not sure how he solve it..perhaps he had to give up his KTP eventually..

  16. David says:

    There was a news item today, BPS predicts population is now 234 million with 65 million households with 60% on Java, compared to 205 million in 2000.

  17. Hans says:

    I have a Kartu Keluarga (Family Card) 6 people, but usually ther lives only three ppl in the house.
    ok that we are a bit unusual, and with students and they like us will probably disregard the error not more than a couple of 100 000 which is probably quite uninteresting

  18. deta says:

    There was a news item today, BPS predicts population is now 234 million with 65 million households with 60% on Java, compared to 205 million in 2000.


    Regardless of whether the census result is over-counting or the other way around, the fast growth of Indonesian citizens, who are occupying virtually the same space from year to year and exploiting ever-depleting resources, is worrisome. Some might argue that large population is a potential for huge domestic market and productive labours, thus enhance economic growth, but the (slow) development of technology will not be able to compensate the speed of population growth to ensure the citizens to sustain a convenient living in Indonesia, which reminds us of the Malthusian catastrophe.

    Maybe it’s time for the law makers to propose a certain policy regarding birth control that has a legal consequence for people who violate it (and give Ariel and Luna a break, will you?). Not as controversial as the one-child policy in China – that as well as experiencing a great success in helping to implement China’s current economic growth, it had initially a negative social consequence – but at least something to show the seriousness of the govt to manage the population problem seeing how alarming the population growth is.

  19. rustyprince says:

    I have just confirmed with my friend that she was counted on the Kartu Keluarga twice in Depok + Palu. Here she was counted despite not being on the KK.
    Its a good thing in western cities that people don’t have an aversion to walking, well perhaps excluding LA, as they do here where its rather freakish if one doesn’t get an ojek bajaj to go those few meters. Just imagine traffic in central @
    Paris, London, Manhattan if pedestrians became extinct

  20. Winmar says:

    The problem in Indonesia is that it’s generally pretty warm and the footpaths are atrocious, which doesn’t encourage people to get around on foot. Governments have to take the responsibility for the latter factor.

    My wife still has a KTP and is on her family’s Kartu Keluarga despite having lived in Australia since 2003.

    Didn’t the “Dua Anak Cukup” campaign in the 70s slow down growth a fair bit? I don’t notice many families having loads of kids there now. The population will always increase as long as women have babies above the replacement rate.

    Good to hear about that road, rustyprince. Which route does it take between Jakarta and Cianjur?

  21. katadia says:


    The growth in the number of people over a certain period is not always indicative of an increase in the number of children that an average woman is having. In fact, the total fertility rate in Indonesia is actually falling (women are getting married later, postpone the onset of childbearing, have fewer children la di da la di da).

    At the moment, there is a positive momentum for population growth because there is a relatively large proportion of people in the childbearing age group. Potentially, we’re in a good place right now because of the current shape in our age structure (hello demographic dividend!)

    I don’t think there is a need for ‘mildly’ coercive population control! Maybe we should target the polygamists instead! 🙂

  22. sputjam says:

    maybe its a conspiracey to make everyone think that there are 140 million javanese and therefore, have more representative in parliament.

  23. deta says:

    Hi, Katadia

    Ah yes, if we see the age-based population growth, it shows that the proportion of productive ages and elderly population is increasing, partly due to the baby boom in 70s – 80s, while the birth rate is slowing down a little bit. It faces its own challenge, though, as that means a wide range of job opportunities has to be made available for these people.

    And based on what I see happening, people who live below poverty line, those who are more vulnerable toward overpopulation-induced disasters and problems, still have low awareness and affordability for contraceptive means. So I think the ‘coercive’ population control, if any, can take a form of providing more access to contraceptive facility for this segment of population if the country wants to maintain the slow rate of pop growth.

    As for the polygamists, as far as the population number is concerned, I don’t think they can be blamed for overpopulation given that each woman they marry can maintain their birth rate below average. But if we badly want to target them, they can always be targeted through some other policies, of course, and I’ll be happy to support that. 😉

  24. rustyprince says:

    Sputjam maybe I am very very wrong, but I’ll try to expand a little on my aspersions of these official ‘facts’.
    1. The pop. Of Jak is going by the no.s on wikipedia nearly 25 million (I’m including Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi). That makes it one of the worlds largest conglomerations There is a very inadequate rail service to compound the inept jalan jalan/ arterial web to serve such a huge pop. Its a miracle the macet don’t extend from sunrise to midnight given such conditions.
    The traffic in Bangkok in 96, pop including suburbs 10 million seemed worse to me. Actually remember being in a bus that barely moved 100m in an hour at 9 at night. Maybe his royal highness was taking the mutt for a walk
    2.Bogor and Bekasi have 5 and 4 million respectively. That’s a huge mass of people equiivalent to Madrid and Rome. Now I spend a whole day enjoying the korban in the warren of alleyways adjoining the river in Bogor and – I’ve seen the shoebox accom in Bekasi backing up against a huge peaceful cemetry; but have to say despite witnessing high density habitation – I’m surprised at the respective no’s.
    3. Now I included Palu and Manado in the double count. Palu felt smaller to me than its official nearly 300,000 until the huge macet near the promenade to celebrate New Years Night – great joy, amazing fireworks, pop bands, dangdut, lots of illicit alcohaol, brilliant night, secular Indonesia at its best.
    North Suliwesi 2.1million people containing the city of Manado. This city and its suburbs follow the curve of the bay for 10km and it extends the same distance NE to the airport. Also tthere are a lot of people between the city and Bitung + Tomohon/tondano and in the immediate environs of these towns both of which are comparable to Rankasbitung. Also the rest of rest the countryside as far as Kotamubagu and the islands in this province can hardly be described as depopulated. And 6 malls and even macet in Manado. But Pandelang and Rankasbitung regency combined officially have 400,000 more inhabitants, and IMHO I didn’t discern this mass of people.
    4. In the west census forms are distributed to every household to be filled out by one indiv. Who only includes those who sleep in the home that night. In more socially deprived areas there has to be more of a follow up with some households to determine the accuracy and even hotels have to conduct a census. These census must have a very high accuracy. The census here continues for a month and there is double counting and there is a huge transient population in Indonesia. In every regional centre I’ve been there is a great mix of the archipelago’s ethnic groups

  25. rustyprince says:

    That should read conurbation not conglom,

    Wimmar coming from Bandung direction turn right at that last town before the hairpin ascent of Puncak, then take a left, if unsure ask for the Jalan to Sukawangi, the road curves around for quite a distance what is the lower slopes of Gede, but you don’t get any glimpse of the mountain peak. I have done this route twice, so you should end up in Depok: I was on a bike, not permitted, but if I reemember correct you can access the freeway between Bogor BEKASI B4 entering Depok.
    Alot of this is a new route which was being build 2 years back, so it could have become quite busy since then as an alternative to Puncak.

  26. Saipul says:

    Actually almost every external agency (for example, the CIA) believes that Indonesia’s census figures generally undercount the population. In the 2000 census, for instance, the BPS factored in an undercount of 5%, whereas most other sources believe it was in the 10% range.

    The population of Jakarta within its official borders (not talking about the urbanized / metro area) is just under 9 million, giving the city a population density of about 13,000 people per km2. This is lower than Tokyo, Seoul, and numerous cities in developing South Asia. To me this is not at all surprising, despite most residential areas being low-rise, when you take into account several factors:

    1) Jakarta has far less road space than most other major Asian cities. Slightly less than 7% of its land area is devoted to roads, compare to nearly 20% in Singapore and Tokyo.

    2) Jakarta has practically no land dedicated to parks, green spaces, or small nature reserves, quite unlike cities in developed countries.

    3) Jakarta has no single area within its borders dedicated to manufacturing or other heavy industries. Again unlike Singapore, Kaula Lumpur, Taipei, and many other Asian cities.

    Some other random thoughts: I lived in the ‘kampung’ areas of South Jakarta and did not see a personal lawn or garden for two years. What I did see, having been invited to many wedding receptions and personal gatherings, was that many people had bedrooms the size of bathrooms, especially the children. Jakarta has nearly a million people living in ‘slums’ (I hate that word) along rivers, train tracks, and the northern coast. My father-in-law’s home village in Central Java is considered an absolute backwater yet it has 10,000 people; that would be considered a ‘small city’ back in the States. Kelapa Gading, Pluit, and Menteng, though generally similar to middle class neighborhoods in the West, are considered exclusive areas and probably only the top 10-20% wealthiest Jakartans can afford to live there. Remember that the average income in Jakarta is less than 2 million rupiah per month.

  27. rustyprince says:

    HELLO Saipul,
    About the ‘slums’ comment, I did some painful pontification on the appropriate Dickensian dialectic to describe contemporary poverty in Indonesia before reluctantly ascribing to the descriptive sense applied by a Guardian journo, if my recollection is strong, when he sneeringly bracketed Jakarta and Delhi as illustrations of urban squalor the democratically adverse denizens of Bangkok had long left behind – to paraphrase the lazy journo, those Bangkok pseudo sophisticates believe they’re now like us in London, NY, Sydney but their congruence of enlightenment needs further refinement.

    I didn’t like this slur on Jakarta and Indonesia, whose people I prefer in general to the Thais and that was knowing them 14 years previous as a young backpacker, when, you’d expect more genuineness. Someone here defending Indonesia should start a thread over the comparable attributes of Buddhist Thailand and f*cked up Cambodia and the latter two’s tolerance of every vice that seems to have IM’s resident rightwing loons forever frantic when it happens on a much lesser scale here. But that may necessitate having to concur that Islam in Indonesia has good tenets. ( And I’m not including agreement in the Faustian pact with evil sense, a la some loon’s applause of the abuse of an attractive, enlightened young lady. Echoes of last nights episode of ‘Sleeper Cell’ and the loonie/jihad pact)

    But I think we are in agreement that the road infrastructure in Jakarta is completely inadequate for the mobile population.

    The Jakartacentric government’s response seems to be a proposed hefty tax rise on automobiles. The effect of this will be to penalize the aspirational middle class – already autos are more expensive than America- further it will increase the motivation of civil servants to supplement their income by graft/corruption. The tax shy merchant classes won’t be denied their status symbols but will use rising costs to renege on pay rises, also there’ll extra transport costs for everybody: and those honest folks toiling in the backwaters, with state services far below the Jakarta standards, will nevertheless be penalized for the Ibu Kota’s excesses. I’d opinionate that eventually the tax would trickle down to be paid by the impoverished masses in price inflation.

    Instead I’d propose a congestion charge for Jakarta and Bandung/Surabaya if required with revenue solely directed to road/rail development in respective metro areas . And increase efforts to augment personal taxation – without identifying the individual, I know of one Pertemina franchise holder who pays his 20 staff 1juta every month but can cough up 15juta supposedly 10% of his salary for his Pentecostal church every monthly collection. Obviously he’s taking care of his soul in the afterlife more than his employees. This example surely highlights the tax potential that exists in Indonesia. Further all of Indonesia is online now; I’m able to hop out of the scuba gear on this pristine tropical island 2000km from Jak and BB in my replies, thus excuse the typos – so instead of having people registering in every new regency as they follow the work, give them a single tax/registration no. and redirect the underused staff to carrying out random audits on the wealthier to cough up more tax – “oh you don’t work but can you explain the large house, Innova, two kids in Uni and the mistress in the next kampong.” Individuals would have to do an indefinite ‘Into the Wild’ to escape their obligations to society.

    Ok an efficient tax system will take time, and my solution is probably naïve, more corruption potential, so they’ll probably go for the short-gap of the mobile tax, but at least this will keep the intercity routes of Java at a tolerable level of traffic and adventure motorcyclists’ will continue to have the crumbling jalan hutan/gunung to ourselves thus allowing me to continue my Quixotic quest to undermine the legitimacy of the Indonesian census. South Banten really there’s 2.5 million hiding someone there…..I’ll report more left eye observations after m’b trip to Central Java planned for October.

  28. Saipul says:

    Those are some interesting points, RustyPrince. I wasn’t criticizing your use of the word slum by rather my own. Honesty I’ve never been to southern areas of Banten province, so I can’t speak for that 2.5 million figure. As for Central Java, I think you’ll see that it’s basically an endless mass of people on the main highways, but once you get off on the less traveled roads you can find less populated areas. Even there, though, there’s usually a village with a couple thousand people every one-to-two kilometers.

  29. Saipul says:

    There may be some good truth in this article, actually. The BPS is very unreliable, as I have been comparing their religious statistics from the 2000 census with recent information from local BPS and Ministry of Religion studies.

    Firstly, the government clearly has a policy in place to undercount or under-represent the number of religious minorities, especially Christians, in Indonesia. Here is some of the data I’ve collected on the percent of Christians (Protestants and Catholics) in various provinces where I could find recent data. Again all of this is from either BPS or Kemenag sources. 1971 and 2000 numbers are directly from the census.

    # and % of Christians

    South Sumatra
    1971 N.A.
    2000 105,760 1.54%
    2009 204,372 3%

    East Java
    1971 436,824 1.71%
    2000 799,276 2.30%
    2009 1,243,933 3.37%

    1971 114,864 4.62%
    2000 245,062 7.85%
    2004 281,785 8.7%

    Riau and Kepuluan Riau (Combined because Kepuluan Riau data was not separated until after 2000)
    1971 34,765 2.12%
    2000 321,461 6.76%
    2009 609,993 10.12%

    1971 6,175 0.61%
    2000 60,395 2.51%
    2010 104,968 3.66%

    Bangka Belitung
    1971 N.A.
    2000 25,138 2.79%
    2009 53,024 5.06%

    1971 N.A.
    2000 213,135 2.63%
    2009 583,467 6.74%

    West Java (Not including Banten)
    1971 N.A.
    2000 703,604 1.97%
    2007 2,376,601 5.81%

    Kota Semarang
    2000 173,780 12.89%
    2005 214,339 15.10%

    Kota Surakarta
    2000 106,054 21.63%
    2005 148,422 28.94%

    This is all of the data I could find, yet you can see from these figures that in Banten, West Java, Yogya, and East Java alone they under-represented Christians in the 2000 census by 2 million (could not find Central Java figures; probably similarly undercounted). The same trend seems apparent in Sumatran provinces as well. So while the 2000 census indicated that 8.92% of the population was Christian, the real figure is probably closer to 13-14%. Either that, or it’s growing at an exponential rate that will have it overtake Islam in a few decades, which I highly doubt.

    So yes, BPS stats are unreliable.

  30. katadia says:

    Hi Saipul,

    “Firstly, the government clearly has a policy in place to undercount or under-represent the number of religious minorities, especially Christians, in Indonesia.”

    I don’t understand how you would jump from your concluding statement that ‘BPS stats are unreliable’ to the one above, which suggests that there is some sort of conspiracy going on to manipulate data on people’s beliefs.

    I’m sure you’re already aware of the fact that, the 2000 Census was the first ever full count ‘Census’ conducted in Indonesia, in the sense that the previous Censuses were pretty much surveys. Until you show me further evidence to back your claim of such conspiracy, I think that the discrepancies you found from the 2000 Census figures with the recent statistics are more to do with data collecting/input problems. If, there really was a conspiracy to underrepresent religious minorities, why would you think that Confucianism was introduced as a new category for religion in the 2000 Census?

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