Indonesians now live longer, but with strings attached

Illustration of an older person.
Illustration of an older person. Christian Gertenbach/Unsplash.

Indonesians can now expect to live longer, but they need to prepare to spend their old age fighting for their wellbeing, as many older persons are complaining about their health conditions or still working as the primary earner in their households, latest data shows.

The proportion of older people aged 60 or over in Indonesia gradually increased from 8.05% of the total population in 2013 to 10.48% in 2022, according to Indonesia’s statistics office BPS. In the same period, the country’s life expectancy at birth, or the expected number of years to live, rose from 70.4 to 71.85 years.

However, there’s no guarantee that older Indonesians will stay in good shape. According to the latest World Health Organization data, Indonesians born in 2019 could hope to enjoy only 62.8 years in full health even though, at the same time, their life expectancy was 71.3 years.

“There’s an eight-year gap between the life expectancy and the healthy life expectancy at birth,” Indonesia’s BPS stated in December 2022. “This shows that people would spend at least eight years of their lives being sick or disabled.”

More than 42% of Indonesia’s elderly population, which reached nearly 29 million people in 2022, had health complaints when surveyed last year.

Nevertheless, about 52.5% of the older persons were still working, in line with the fact that 56.7% of them were the heads of the households. Of the working elderly, 86.2% of them made a living in the informal sector, 75.6% were vulnerable workers, and 19.15% were in precarious employment.

“Apart from the cost-of-living crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, many older persons are still working because of the lack of new blood in several fields of work, including in the agricultural sector that is dominated by workers aged 45 or over,” Bhima Yudhistira, the executive director of the Center of Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS), said via text message.

In terms of the working hours, 20.43% of the elderly were working for more than 48 hours a week and 35.30% for over 40 hours. However, the working elderly’s average income was only Rp1.62 million, or about £87.3, per month.

To make things worse, over 41% of the older people were part of the households in the bottom 40% of spending distribution in Indonesia, but only 13.9% of the elderly’s households received cash handouts from the government’s conditional cash transfer programme known as PKH.


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