Volume 30 - Article 41 | Pages 1189–1218

What happens after you drop out? Transition to adulthood among early school-leavers in urban Indonesia

By Ariane Utomo, Anna Reimondos, Iwu Utomo, Peter McDonald, Terence H. Hull

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Date received:24 Jun 2013
Date published:11 Apr 2014
Word count:8221
Keywords:Asia, child labor, dropouts, education, gender, Indonesia, school to work transition, transition to adulthood, youth unemployment


Background: The high incidence of young people dropping out of school prior to completing secondary schooling remains a nationwide problem in Indonesia. While it is commonly assumed that early school-leavers will become child workers, in fact little is known about their transition to adulthood.

Objective: Using retrospective data from a sample of 799 young adults (ages 20-34) in Greater Jakarta who dropped out of school by age 16, this paper investigates their patterns of activity and employment in the adolescent years following their exit from the school system, the timing and patterns of reaching various markers of adulthood, and their current life situations.

Results: Less than a quarter of early school-leavers worked in the immediate year following school exit. Instead about 30% neither worked nor studied between the ages of 12-18. The likelihood of experiencing idleness was highest at age 13 and was relatively higher for females than males. Among those with early work experience the majority worked in the manufacturing industry, as domestic servants, or as informal traders. Early school-leavers left their parental home, married, and became parents at a younger age compared to those who left school at ages 17-19.

Conclusions: Female early school-leavers are likely to spend a longer time economically and educationally inactive during their formative years, progress faster to their markers of adulthood, and are less likely to return to school, relative to their male counterparts. Qualitative insights suggest that adolescent dropouts who enter employment early are better off in their young adulthood than those who experience inactivity prior to adulthood.

Author's Affiliation

Ariane Utomo - Australian National University, Australia [Email]
Anna Reimondos - Australian National University, Australia [Email]
Iwu Utomo - Australian National University, Australia [Email]
Peter McDonald - University of Melbourne, Australia [Email]
Terence H. Hull - Australian National University, Australia [Email]

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