Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has shown an increase in the number of singles and unmarried people in the last four decades. The BPS 2010 census indicated that one in 14 people aged 30-39 have never married. The statistic is predicted to increase in the next census in 2020.
Referring to that data, a doctoral candidate from the University of Queensland in Australia, Karel Karsten Himawan, in his research pointed out that the majority of singles in Indonesia suffered from peer pressure.
"According to preliminary studies, nine out of 10 singles feel pressure from their parents, extended family and friends," said Karel to Kompas.com in Brisbane, Friday, February 9.
Karel defined a number of public perspectives of singles that can cause pressure. Firstly, people commonly understand that there are marriage problems. But in the case of singles, it is often believed that the single person himself or herself is the problem," Karel began.
Another perspective is that being a single woman carries more social stigma than being a single man. The term jomblo that refers to single people, comes from the word jomlo, which means "spinster" according to the Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language.
"On the other hand, unmarried men aged 30 and above are often thought of more positively, as they are considered to be prepared for a more settled family life," said Karel.
In his research, Karel found an early conclusion that the majority of singles in Indonesia fall within the category of involuntary singles. Being single is not their life choice. This conclusion is based on data that show that the majority of singles in Indonesia, or 83.2 per cent of them, have a positive attitude toward marriage.
"Their motivation to marry is not just about surrendering to social pressure," Karel explained, adding that certain factors had caused the increasing number of singles in Indonesia, particularly the involuntary singles.
One factor is the tradition of hypergamy (marrying someone of higher social status). It suggests that the man should ideally be of higher social and economic status than the woman. However, modernization and gender equality have increased the number of well-educated career women.
This finding is proven by data from the BPS in 2016 that shows the percentage of women completing high school is higher than men by 2.03 per cent. Furthermore, the percentage of women completing higher education studies is also 0.35 per cent higher than men. And in the last 15 years, the percentage of women in the work force has increased by 9.5 per cent more than men.
Karel said the lack of possible suitors was not the main reason for people being single, not to mention that the BPS in 2010 revealed that the number of men and women aged 20 and above was balanced. Woman make up 50.24 per cent of the total population of Indonesia.