How Demographers Reduce Fertility in Indonesia

How Demographers Reduce Fertility in Indonesia

Demographers are trained to be sceptical about their data. Over the past five decades, huge institutions have grown with claims to have gold plated measures of fertility and mortality rates, and each year new wall-charts and websites emerge to justify league tables of national development or reinforce presumptions of political success. Most prominent of these is the family of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) that grew out of the World Fertility Surveys (WFS) of the 1970s. They were carried out in partnership with national family planning, health and statistical agencies but the heavy emphasis was on the development of international standards for sampling, question design and analysis plans. In Indonesia the regular WFS/DHS provided government departments with key fertility and mortality indicators.  They marked the initial identification of rapidly declining birth rates in the late 1970s through to the late 1990s, followed by the diagnosis of “fertility stalling” in the new century. Ten years ago Hull and Hartanto discovered that the Indonesian DHS sampling system was flawed. Because the first surveys questioned only ever-married women, interviewers often failed to identify single women in the listing of all household members. The resulting “missing single women” had a major impact on the denominators used in the estimation of total fertility rates. Using the marriage patterns revealed in other data sources it was possible to adjust TFR figures for 2002-3 and 2007 to show that fertility was substantially lower than those published by the DHS. This seminar brings the logic of the adjustment up to date with an examination of the recently released 2017 DHS. It appears that DHS surveys are becoming more adept at finding and questioning the single women in Indonesia but fertility rates continue to be overstated by the DHS. Indonesia’s problems with the politics of correcting measures of TFR are also found in other Asian societies where growing employment and mobility of young women undermines survey accuracy.

Terence (Terry) Hull is Emeritus Professor of Demography at The Australian National University. He was President of the Asian Population Association for the period 2013-2015 and from 2015-2018 serves on the APA Council as the Immediate Past President. Since 2001 he has been on the International Steering Committee of the Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights. Before retirement in 2013 he was Professor of Demography in the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute (ADSRI -- now the School of Demography) and Adjunct Professor of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), where he held the JC Caldwell Chair in Population Health and Development.

Date & time

Fri 23 Nov 2018, 3:00pm to 4:00pm


Jean Martin Room, Beryl Rawson Bldg 13, Ellery Crescent, ANU


Emeritus Professor Terence Hull


Susan Cowan
6125 4273


Updated:  16 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications