Jakarta, March 4, 2021 – Over 85 per cent of surveyed households in Indonesia have received at least one form of government social assistance from Indonesia’s National Economic Recovery (PEN) Program, according to a nationwide survey in Indonesia, published today.

The survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Economic Development (PROSPERA), and the SMERU Research Institute involved face-to-face interviews with over 12,000 households across Indonesia’s 34 provinces, making it the largest COVID-19 impact survey yet.

Results show that half of the households (50.8 per cent) received a cash transfer. The poorest households received the most assistance: 90 per cent received at least one form of assistance (cash and/or in-kind) and 62 per cent received cash assistance.

Almost three-quarters of households (74.3 per cent) said they were earning less than in January 2020. Families with children (75.3 per cent) and those living in urban areas (78.3 per cent) saw even greater loss of income.  Furthermore, 12.6 per cent of surveyed families are struggling to feed their families, lacking the financial resources to buy enough food. The poor and a growing number of middle-income earners who have become vulnerable due to the economic downturn will need continued social assistance.

The report, entitled “The Social and Economic Impacts of Covid-19 on Households and Strategic Policy Recommendations for Indonesia”, captures the outcome of the survey.  It looks at the impact of the pandemic on employment, small businesses, food security, access to healthcare, education and social safety nets. It also gives special attention to households with children, women, and vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities.

“This extraordinary situation requires an extraordinary response,” said  Suahasil Nazara, Vice Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia in opening remarks. “Going forward, we will focus on policies to counter the economic impact of the pandemic which will be game changers — an effective public health intervention to vaccinate 185 million people, social protection programs to help cushion the impact of the pandemic and also ensure business continuity and, structural reforms to help us build back better from the pandemic,” he added.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has posed human security challenges. The governments and their partners have to address them so that no one will be left behind. Taking a human security approach, we have to protect individuals, especially those in vulnerable groups, and empower them. In Indonesia, Japan has provided technical assistance to the health sector, and provided medical supplies such as ventilators, PPEs and PCR test kits, both bilaterally and through international organizations, including UNDP and UNICEF. Japan is also going to contribute to UNDP for the digitalization of health system in Indonesia, including data information system for monitoring COVID-19 vaccine distribution,” said H.E Kanasugi Kenji, Ambassador of Japan to Indonesia.

“The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has reshaped its development partnership to work with Indonesia to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Our PROSPERA economic governance program works closely with the Indonesian government to foster more effective economic institutions and policies that contribute to strong, sustainable and inclusive economic growth that is sensitive to the needs of women and vulnerable groups. We are glad that this report will inform the Government about the impact of COVID-19 and support policies to protect households across Indonesia,” said  Alison Duncan, Minister-Counsellor (Economic, Infrastructure & Investment) for Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

The study highlights the economic impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, including children, who are in many cases some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“In 2021 and beyond, we must continue using the same strategy for social protection coverage and unconditional cash transfers for those who need it the most,” said UNICEF Representative Debora Comini. “The combined effort of all these policies at this crucial time can help to prevent a sharp increase in extreme child poverty.”

The report confirms once again that COVID-19 has had the biggest impact on the country’s most vulnerable groups. The pandemic risks a reversal of the progress the country has made towards poverty reduction and human development.

“The study reveals the significant vulnerabilities that so many communities around the country face today. Now is the moment for the Government, civil society, private sector and international community to seize the opportunity to work even closer together to ensure that as we work towards building back better after this pandemic, we develop policies and system that better prepare Indonesia against future crises – one that leaves no one behind,” said Norimasa Shimomura, UNDP Resident Representative in Indonesia.

“This comprehensive study portrays households’ socioeconomic condition amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that most households experience a significant economic shock, vulnerable groups have disruption in accessing health service, parents and children face challenges in remote learning, and women have had to take on more responsibilities due to school closures. Based on our findings, we suggest further improvement in government assistance to protect vulnerable groups during this difficult period,” said Athia Yumna, Deputy Director of The SMERU Research Institute.