01.01.03. Key languages, ethnic groups and minority groups | Indonesia

01.01.03. Key languages, ethnic groups and minority groups | Indonesia

11 Apr 2022

Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) is the official language of Indonesia. There are more than 700 local dialects in Indonesia. Other languages spoken are English, Dutch, and local dialects (CIA World Factbook, 2019).

Statistics Indonesia reported that there are more than 1,300 ethnicities in Indonesia, which are classified into 31 ethnic groups. The largest ethnic group in Indonesia is made up by Javanese (40.22%), followed by Sundanese (15.5%) (Na’im & Syaputra, 2011). According to the CIA World Factbook, Malay, Batak, Madurese, Betawi, Minangkabau, Buginese, Bantenese, Banjarese, Acehnese, Dayak, Sasak, and Chinese are other ethnic groups that make up between four to one per cent of the population (CIA World Factbook, 2019).

There are five main religions reported to be practised in Indonesia. The majority of the population, according to 2010 estimates, identifies as Muslim (87.2%) making Indonesia the largest Islamic country, while maintaining its status as a secular country. Other religious groups in the country are Christians (almost 10%; Roman Catholic 2.9%; Protestant 7%), Hindus (1.7%) and other smaller faith groups (CIA World Factbook, 2019).

Indonesia’s culture is a mix of ancient traditions of the early settlers and Western influence brought during the Portuguese and Dutch colonial era (Fisher, 2018). The principles held highly in the Indonesian society stem from life in the village communities, such as the concept of gotong royong (mutual cooperation) and musyawarah (deliberation) in order to reach mufakat (consensus). These concepts are still very relevant and respected across the country and upheld in politics (Kawamura, 2011; Koentjaraningrat, 2009).


CIA World Factbook. (2019). Indonesia. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/indonesia/

Fisher, M. (2018). Indonesia People and Culture: Tradition and Custom. Equinox Publishing.

Kawamura, K. (2011). Consensus and democracy in Indonesia: Musyawarah-Mufakat revisited. IDE Discussion Paper, 308, 1–14.

Koentjaraningrat. (2009). Gotong Rojong: Some Social-anthropological Observations on Practices in Two Villages of Central Java.

Na’im, A., & Syaputra, H. (2011). Kewarganegaraan, suku bangsa, agama dan bahasa sehari-hari penduduk Indonesia hasil sensus penduduk 2010. Jakarta: Badan Pusat Statistik.