Indonesian living standards over 50 years: A multidimensional analysis

Author name: 
Hal Hill

There is a continuing debate on the measurement of living standards, especially in developing countries. The proliferation of social indicators in recent decades, motivated by both philosophical and pragmatic empirical considerations, has been illuminating. But it has also led to some confusion: which indicator or set of indicators should be employed? The most widely used indicator continues to be headcount poverty, or some refined variant of it. But what of the many other indicators and, importantly, do they portray a similar picture? We illustrate these issues with reference to the Indonesian experience over several decades. Indonesia has experienced moderately fast economic growth since the late 1960s, and as a consequence headcount poverty has fallen rapidly. Most other social indicators have also improved. But the rate of progress has varied, from similarly rapid improvement to stagnation and in one instance – environmental amenities – to regress.

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