Precarity and Populism as Neo-liberal Contradictions: Failed Promises of the “Demographic Bonus”

Dr Ariane Utomo1, Dr Inaya Rakhmani2, Dr Bagus Takwin3, Dr Hizkia Yosias Polimpung4, Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih5, Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir6

1School Of Geography, University Of Melbourne, Australia, 2Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia, 3Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia, 4Faculty of Communications, Universitas Bhayangkara , , Indonesia, 5Department of Sociology, Universitas Indonesia, and Asia Institute,  University of Melbourne and, , Australia, 6 Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta, and Asia Institute, University of Melbourne , , Australia

Chair: Ariane Utomo


As a consequence of neo-liberal restructuring, there has been an increase of labour market flexibility in the developed and developing world. This panel unpacks the complexities and contradictions in these transformative processes by scrutinising the “demographic bonus” in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and fourth largest democracy in the world—Indonesia. Recent discussions on Indonesia’s changing age structure have focused on the demographic window of opportunity. This entails a promising economic and democratic future from having large cohorts of productive, entrepreneurial, and politically engaged young adults. What is often forgotten is that such a rosy picture is dependent upon  a set of preconditions concerning human capital, job creation, and social cohesion. The lack of these preconditions has manifested in forms of social inequalities which foregrounded the rise of right-wing populist narratives in Indonesia. Against the background of demographic and political transitions, our panel focuses on precarious employment and the revival of conservative ideals among young urban Indonesians. We discuss interrelated issues around schooling and skilling, informality, premature deindustrialisation, the gig economy, inequality, precarity, Islamic piety, and democracy.  Accounting for the changing nature of work faced by large cohorts of young adults is key to understand the effects of neo-liberalism in Indonesia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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