A Prospera survey in early 2022 targeted individuals and businesses across the country to gauge perspectives on the economic recovery.

While the latest phase of the pandemic has seen life return to something resembling normalcy, a Prospera survey has found many Indonesian households and businesses remain wary of financially overextending.

In January, nearly 9,000 people across Indonesia responded to the rapid mass scale survey and provided perspectives on economic recovery, spending expectations and risks to labour supply.

The survey was conducted online over a four-day period following an SMS blast across the country. Respondents included homemakers, salaried workers and small business owners.

The results provide a new data source to inform advice to the Indonesian Government on social and economic programs.

Approach with caution
Many households seemed to be feeling the pressure, anticipating increased expenses while incomes remained the same.

At the same time, nearly half of businesses expected production costs to rise and more than 60% were prepared to pass these costs onto consumers through higher prices.

Only 44% of respondents planned to purchase durable goods (things like furniture, gadgets, motorcycles, cars or housing) in the first quarter of 2022.

Households with higher consumption – a common proxy for living standards – were more likely to consider purchasing cars, while those with lower consumption focused on housing.

Despite believing cost increases were looming, households were surprisingly sanguine about their ability to save compared to the previous period.

Households and businesses were somewhat vindicated in their caution (though to a lesser extent than they expected) as inflation approached 3.5% in April, with food inflation even higher at more than 5%.

The survey posed questions to homemakers – mostly women – about employment and specifically regarding aspirations, motivations, barriers and areas for support.

Almost 95% indicated they would like to have a business or find full- or part-time employment.

Supporting household income was the main motivation for more than 70% of homemakers, while over 15% wanted to exercise skills and around one-tenth sought financial independence.

Despite the overwhelming appetite for employment, only a quarter of female homemakers with children under 13 years old had worked in previous year.

Nearly two-thirds said this was because they needed to manage the household, while others cited reduced employee numbers, business closures or that they were unable to work from home.

More than 90% of homemakers viewed skills training in business and access to job applications as the most needed support.

Over 80% identified job application training and coaching for women on talking to their husbands, while a little over half needed affordable childcare but felt it was not a gamechanger.

Business case
If and when homemakers look for work, they may well find opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing – sectors where business owners felt more likely to recruit than in other industries.

More than a quarter of businesses anticipated making new hires while only 13% planned to reduce numbers, though the majority expected employee numbers to remain the same.

Some businesses were also cautious when it came to investment. Just over half planned to make capital expenditures and this was mostly for day-to-day working capital.

Businesses planning for capital expenditure were unlikely to secure loans from the finance sector, preferring to fund it themselves or borrow from family or friends.

Surveying the horizon
The latest survey was a modification of the 2021 private sector development survey which helped government agencies understand the circumstances of low-income households and micro businesses.

“We presented our survey results to relevant counterparts like the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs,” said Prospera economist Carlos Mangunsong.

“We advise them based on the data we have and where it may be related to their portfolios.

“It is common for our counterparts to request a specific topic be included in the next survey or conduct their own research based on Prospera findings or survey instruments.”

In June, Prospera conducted another rapid survey gather insights on the impacts of current economic conditions. This survey investigated household responses to changes in the prices of basic food and perceptions on rises in electricity and fuel prices.

It also queried businesses on the perceived impacts of tax policies, perceptions of the government’s Covid transition and changes to travel and health behaviours.