Evi Nurvidya Arifin
THE JAKARTA POST, 28 August 2010
The release of the preliminary results of the 2010 population
census has sparked a revival of the old controversial issue of
overpopulation in Jakarta. Jakarta is home to a population of
9.6 million. To some observers, this figure came as a big
surprise. They then began blaming the “burgeoning” population as
the culprit for the many social problems and the economic
malaise in Jakarta, including the worsening traffic over the
past several years.
Why did they find it a surprise? According to the projection
published by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2005,
Jakarta’s population should have been just 9 million in 2010.
The reality, as indicated by the census, exceeded this
projection by 600,000. It even exceeded the 9.3 million
projected to be achieved by 2025.
Another surprise may come from the dramatic jump in the
population over the last two decades: from an annual increase of
only about 9,000 from 1990 to 2000 (derived from the increase in
population of 8.3 million in 1990 and 8.4 million in 2000) to
120,000 from 2000 to 2010. Therefore, the argument goes, the
population of Jakarta has been growing too fast.
As a consequence, it was only natural that one of them then
started saying “The population of Jakarta has been growing too
fast. Just look at what is happening every day in Jakarta. We
have been living longer, but we waste our time on the road,
traveling from one place to another, such as between home and
school, home and office, and home and market. We should
seriously check the population growth by controlling migration
Are they too alarmist? Well, let us dig deeper and look at more
statistics. In 2007, the BPS actually revised its projection,
resulting in a higher projection of a population of 9.3 million
in 2010. Therefore, the difference between the projected and the
actual census result is, in fact, smaller, only 300,000, rather
In interpreting this difference, we should be aware that
statistical estimates, projections and even census results have
never been very precise. Errors are always expected. We do not
believe there is any statistician who can produce estimates,
projections, and survey or census results with no errors at all.
With all the difficulties and problems of interviewing people in
a dynamic metropolitan city such as Jakarta, these errors are
expected to be greater. Therefore, to us, the difference of
300,000 between the projected number and the census result does
not seem big enough to be of any concern.
Furthermore, evaluated from a longer perspective, the result of
the recent census, in fact, neither shows that the population of
Jakarta in 2010 is “too large” nor “growing too fast”.
In a projection we prepared almost 20 years ago (in 1992), we
believed that the most likely number of Jakarta inhabitants in
2010 was 11.9 million, much larger than the census result of 9.6
In his dissertation published in 2002, even Salahudin Muhidin,
in his illustrated scenario, forecast that the population of
Jakarta would reach an even larger number, 14.7 million, in 2010.
Therefore, from these longer time perspectives, we believe that
Jakarta’s population has not been growing too fast in the last
decade. Instead, it has been growing even slower than the
earlier projections released in 1992 and 2002.
In addition, the annual increase of 120,000 from 2000 to 2010 is
still much smaller than around 180,000 from 1980 to 1990, and
even the 220,000 from 1971 to 1980. It looks like a big and
sudden increase only when it is compared to that from 1990 to
2000. Therefore, the figure in 2000 was exceptionally low.
We have three possible explanations to understand the low 2010
figure. First, the chaotic situation from 1997 to 2000 resulted
in an exodus of the population from Jakarta. Second, the
euphoria for democracy after the start of the reform era in 1998
led to people refusing to be interviewed.
Third, the 1998 riot traumatized people and hence they became
reluctant to be interviewed. However, the return of social,
economic and political stability in Jakarta, and the rising
economic magnet of the capital city between 2000 and 2010, may
have again lured many people to Jakarta.
At the same time, the coverage and quality of the 2010 census
may have been better than that of the 2000 census.
Despite many possible weaknesses in the implementation of the
census, particularly in Jakarta, the 2010 census enjoyed much
better technology and facilities to conduct the census, a better
quality of interviewer, and larger funding.
In addition, the political, social and economic stability may
have made people more willing to be interviewed in 2010 than in
2000, again improving the quality of the 2010 census.
In other words, the relative improvement in both coverage and
quality may have contributed significantly to the “sudden”
increase of Jakarta’s population from 8.4 million in 2000 to 9.6
million in 2010.
In conclusion, we believe that the increase in the population in
Jakarta in 2010 may not be that large. The worsening traffic may
have been aggravated by the already large population, but the
main culprit may lie somewhere else.
The development paradigm is still emphasizing achieving rapid
growth. However, development of public transportation has not
been a very high priority. Meanwhile, a rapid increase in the
sales of cars and motorcycles is still seen as good for business
and as progress in economic development.
Therefore, success in building affordable, safe and comfortable
public transportation is seen as hampering the sales of cars and
motorcycles; and, therefore, harmful to businesses and to
As long as this paradigm is still held, the traffic in Jakarta
will get even worse, regardless of the population of Jakarta.