Due to Indonesia’s emergence into an archipelago where its inhabitants, though of one similar ancestry, were separated by seas and therefore lost contacts, have caused the individual development of cultures, including their languages and their growing into diversification.

Nevertheless, the population of Indonesia has been reclassified, not so much on the basis of their racial origins, but more so on the basis of their linguistics identities caused by mentioned diversification, into four ethnic groups. A pure classification according to their racial origins is difficult to realize due to their inter-marriages. These four main ethnic groups are the Melanesians (the mixture between the Sub-Mongoloids with the Wajaks), the Proto-Austronesians (including the Wajaks), the Polynesians and the Micronesians. These Melanesians are again sub-divided into the Acehnese of North Sumatra, the Batak in Northeast Sumatra, the Minangkabaus in West Sumatra, the Sundanese in West Java, the Javanese in Central and East Java, the Madurese on the island of Madura, the Balinese, the Sasaks on the island of Lombok, and Timorese on Timor Island. On the island of Borneo in Indonesia’s Kalimantan, one finds the Dayaks. On the island of Sulawesi in the north are the Minahasas and in the center the Torajas, and in the Southern part, the Makasarese and the Buginese. The Ambonese on the group of islands in the Maluku and the Irianese in Papua are classified into the Polynesians and the Proto-Austronesians. The Micronesians are found on tiny islets of Indonesia’s eastern borders.

Languages and Dialects

Languages and dialects spoken and written over the whole of the Indonesian archipelago, 150 to 250 in number are usually classified according to the above mentioned ethnic denominations. The main district local languages of Indonesia are among others: the Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, several Irianese languages and other such languages. In between these languages there are many other different dialects.

Indonesia’s National Language had been officially introduced since Indonesia’s independence and is called the BAHASA INDONESIA. Its lexicon and structure is mainly based on the Malay language enriched by Indonesia’s lexicon of her multi-Local languages and dialects. Although the Bahasa Indonesia has since been regarded as the Lingua Franca, yet local languages are equally valid and no attempt and intention exist to abolish these local languages and dialects. Therefore, the greater parts of the Indonesian nationals are bilingual.

In August 1973, Indonesia and Malaysia signed a cultural agreement in which similar spelling of both the Malaysian “Bahasa Persatuan” and the Indonesian “Bahasa Indonesia” has been agreed upon.

Race, Culture and Ethnic Groups

The first inhabitant of Indonesia was the Java man, who lived 500,000 years ago, named Pithecanthropus erectus by Eugene Dubois who found the fossils at several places on the island of Java in the vicinity of the Bengawan Solo River. The fossils found in 1891 and 1892 in the village of Trinil, near Solo, were called Homo Soloensis, while those found in Wajak were called Wajakensis. Homo Soloensis with the same characteristics as the Austro-Melanosoid people had roamed to the West (Sumatra) and to the East (Papua).

In the period of 3,000-500 BC, Indonesia was inhabited by Sub-Mongoloid migrants from Asia who later inter-married with the indigenous people. In 1,000 BC, inter-marriage still occurred with Indo-Arian migrants from the South-Asian sub-continent of India. The influx of the Indian settlers until the seventh century AD brought about the Hindu religion spread throughout the archipelago.

Moslem merchants from Gujarat and Persia began visiting Indonesia in the 13th century and established trade links between this country and India and Persia. While conducting trade, the Gujarat and the Arab people also spread the Islamic religion in this area. The first to accept the Islam religion were the coastal kingdoms, which before had embraced Hinduism.

In Aceh, Islam was widely accepted by the community with the Pasai and Perlak Kingdoms becoming the first Moslem kingdoms in the archipelago.

First accepted by court circles, Islam founds its way to the community at a later stage. Particularly in Java, the “Wali Songo“ (Islamic preachers) had played a very important role.

It was in 1511, that Portuguese arrived in Indonesia. The arrival of the Portuguese should be linked to the European demand for spices. They were followed by Spaniards, the Dutch and the British. Besides search for spices, they propagate Christianity.

In the rivalry that ensued, the Dutch ultimately succeeded in gaining the trade monopoly in spices throughout the archipelago, thus making the beginning of 350 years of Dutch colonialism over the country.

In the period preceding independence, Indonesia’s community was made up of a large variety of ethnic groups or rural communities. The members of each group are tied to each other by a sense of solidarity and identity which finds its roots in the land, language, art, culture and customs they share.

There are about 500 ethnic groups in Indonesia spread from Sabang (the northernmost tip of Sumatra) to Merauke in Papua. The Javanese community is the largest number of Indonesia’s total population, followed by the Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Buginese, Batak and the Balinese. Other ethnic groups are among others the Ambonese, Dayaks, Sasaks, the Acehnese, etc.

Apart from the indigenous communities, other sub-communities of foreign descent are the Chinese, Arabs and Indians.

Population: Number, Growth Rate, and Distribution

The population of Indonesia in 2010 is around 237 641 326 people, including those residing in urban areas as many as 118 320 256 people (49,79 percent) and in rural areas as many as 119 321 070 people (50,21 percent). Among the countries with the largest population in the world, Indonesia ranks fourth after China, India, and the United States.

Population distribution according to the larger islands are: Sumatra island which covers 25.2 percent of the entire Indonesian territory is inhabited by 21.3 percent of the population, Java which covers 6.8 percent is inhabited by 57.5 percent of the population and Papua which covers 21.8 percent is inhabited by 1.5 percent of the population.

Population by Gender

Male population of Indonesia is 119 630 913 and women is 118 010 413. The sex ratio (SR) is 101, meaning there are 101 males for every 100 women. SR by province, the lowest is 94 in West Nusa Tenggara Province and the highest is 113 in the province of Papua. SR in national level for age group 0-4 is 106, ages 5-9 is 106, five-year age groups from 10 to 64 ranges from 93 to 109, and age 65+ is 81.

Population by Age

The median age of population for Indonesia in 2010 is 27.2 years. This figure shows that the population of Indonesia includes in the middle category (intermediate). Residents of an area are considered as young population where the median age is less than 20, medium if the median age is between 20 and 30, and elderly residents if the median age is more than 30 years.
Population dependency ratio is 51.31. This number indicates that for every 100 peoples in productive age group there are around 51 peoples who are not in productive age group. This figure indicates level of economic dependency of population. Urban areas have a dependency ratio 46.59, lower than the rural population with dependency ratio 56.30.
The average age of first marriage is 25.7 years for male population, and 22.3 years for women (estimated by Singulate Mean Age at Marriage /SMAM).

Recent Migrant

Number of people as recent migrants rises from time to time. The 2010 Population Census recorded 5.396.419 people or 2.5 percent of the population is the interprovincial recent migrants. In percentages, urban recent migrants is more than three times higher than in rural areas which is 3.8 percent compared to 1.2 percent.

The analysis by gender shows that total male migrants is higher than female migrants, counting 2.830.114 compared to 2.566.305 people. This brings the sex ratio of recent migrants to become 110.3. The data strongly relate to a theory that migrants would have been more in urban than in rural areas and males are more mobile. Some provinces such as Kepulauan Riau, Papua Barat and DI Yogyakarta are the main destination for migrants, mostly due to working, looking for job or schooling


Each citizen aged 7 to 15 years obliged to have basic education (The Law Article 6 Number 20 in 2003). Population Census 2010 result shows the percentage of population aged 7 to 15 years old who have never been to school was 2.51 percent and who left school was 6.04 percent.

The indicators to describe the quality of human resources related to education are educational attainment and literacy rate. The data shows the percentage of population aged 5 years and over who completed junior high school and over was 40.93 percent. This indicates that the quality of human resources by formal education was relatively low. The literacy rate of population aged 15 years and over was 92.37 percent means that over 100 population aged 15 years and over there were 92 literate people. People who can read and write any characters are categorized as literate.

Labour Force

Based on the results of SP 2010, the working age population (15 years and over) amounted to 169.0 million, comprising 84.3 million men and 84.7 million women. Of these number, the number of labor force, which is the population 15 years and over who are economically active or working, seeking work, or willing to work amounted to 107.7 million, comprising 68.2 million men and 39.5 million women. Viewed by region, the number of labor force living in urban areas is 50.7 million people and living in rural areas is 57.0 million people. Of the total labor force, the number of working population is 104.9 million and 2.8 million people are looking for jobs.


Since many centuries ago, Indonesia has been an important passage of trading ships and place to call in for traders from many nations. While trading, they also propagated religious teachings they respectively adhered to local people. Hinduism and Buddhism were propagated by Indian merchants and migrants. Gujarati and Persian merchants brought Islam to Aceh, the most northern tip of Sumatra Island, and other areas later on. Islam was thus developed at coastal areas first before penetrating to hinterlands. In Java, in particular, the role of the nine Islamic holy men (Wali Sanga) in propagating Islam was prominent. Catholicism was first introduced to Indonesia by pastors participating in the Portuguese voyages in search of Indonesian spices. After failing to defend Malacca, the Portuguese went away to land in Larantuka, Flores. From this place Catholicism was propagated and spread for the first time throughout the country. Protestantism was introduces and propagated by Dutch and German missionaries, and later on by American missionaries.

Percentage of Religion Followers according to 2010 Cencus


Islam 87,18%
Protestant 6,96%
Catholic 2,91%
Hindu 1,69%
Budha 0,72%



Marine tourism has taken-off in Indonesia in a big way, with the establishment of protected Marine Parks, professional dive masters and guides, and some of the most colourful, breathtaking sea gardens anywhere in the world.

In the warm tropical, turquoise waters, magnificent coral reefs, alive with color, support myriads types of fish and other marine life. Some of the underwater drop-offs are awesome and downward visibility can be as far as 30 meters in some areas. A journey into this extraordinarily vibrant underwater world is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience for both snorkelers and scuba divers alike.


Extensive transportation network provides access to all but the most secluded of places in Indonesia. Flying is the most convenient way of hopping across the archipelago with a choice of flights from airports in all provincial and district capital.

Garuda Indonesia is the national flag carrier, serving international as well as major domestic trunk routes. Other airlines include , Lion Air, Wing Air, Sriwijaya Air, Indonesia’s Air Asia which serves major domestic routes to complete the archipelago’s comprehensive airline network as well as international ones to other Asia’s cities destination.

Trains are available throughout Java and in parts of Sumatra and invariably enjoyable ways to experience the essence of the country. Comfortable, air-conditioned trains are available, particularly on those services that connect Central and East Java with the capital city of Jakarta, including the Bima Trains (via Yogyakarta and Surakarta), the Argo Bromo Anggrek (via Semarang to Surabaya) and the Parahyangan services (from Jakarta to Bandung).

Buses are also a convenient and relatively cheap way to travel across an island. Nearly all inter-city buses are fully air-conditioned and very comfortable often only stopping for food and fuel. Cars and taxis can be hired of course, and provide perfect opportunities to get off the beaten track and explore independently. An enormous variety of public transport can be found in the towns and cities.

PELNI, the state-owned shipping company now has 30 modern ships, serving all main ports in this archipelago of over 18,100 islands. Regular ferries make island hopping easy and also provide some unique opportunities to experience the beauty of these tropical islands.


Indonesian arts and crafts are powerful and wonderful expressions of life, born out of an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage. Many traditional works of art were developed in the courts of former kingdoms such as those centered in Java and Bali.

“Wayang” theatres from Java and Bali, for example, originate from ancient Hindu mythology and feature portions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics adapted to suit local conditions and age-old traditions.

Rigid discipline and artistry are the hallmarks of dances from Java and Bali, but those of Sumatra, Maluku and most of the other islands (one exception is the Gending Sriwijaya of South Sumatra) are characterized by a more flexible gracefulness and charm, a distinction which is further accentuated by an entirely different, non-gamelan, musical accompaniment.

Artistic traditions are actively being preserved in the many art and dance schools which flourish not only in the courts but also in modern, government-run or supervised art academies.


Aromatic spices and a variety of hot chilli peppers are the essence of most Indonesian dishes. Rice is an important part of the national diet for most of the archipelago, but in the eastern islands corn, sago, cassava and sweet potatoes are more common. The enormous wealth of the surrounding seas and oceans, as well as fresh water fisheries, provides an abundance of sea food which can be traditionally served in a number of exciting ways, including baked in banana leaves. As the population of Indonesia is predominantly Moslem, pork is usually not served expect in Chinese, international restaurants, and non Moslem regions such as Bali and Papua. An extensive assortment of tropical and sub-tropical fruit and vegetables can be also be found year-round to tantalize your taste buds.


Dress is normally casual and light clothing is advisable due to the hot, humid climate. Trousers or slacks and shirts are generally considered appropriate but a jacket and tie are required for formal occasions or when making official calls. For certain formal occasions, long-sleeved batik shirts are acceptable.

For Travel to mountain areas, a light sweater or jacket is recommended. Halter tops and shorts are frowned upon in most places except around sports facilities or on the beach. Proper decorum should especially be observed when visiting place of worship.