Understanding Gender-based Violence and Unpaid Care Work During Covid-19 in Indonesia

Rima Prama Artha
Prani Sastiono
IGAA Jackie Viemilawati
Researchers conducted an online survey to understand the welfare consequences of the pandemic for individuals, particularly the experiences of women related to gender-based violence (GBV) and unpaid care work in Indonesia. This survey involved 1,000 online survey respondents and 203 phone interview participants of both men and women from across Indonesia. Respondents reported an increase in experience of abuse most often due to family financial distress. Respondents also reported an increase in household chores and that both mother and father are involved in child-rearing activities. 
Mother helping child study online.
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Project Summary

Location: Indonesia
Sample: 1,000 online survey respondents and 203 phone interview participants
Timeline: October–December 2020
J-PAL Initiatives providing funding: N/A

Target group: General public (ages 18-64) and group of gender-based violence survivors (ages 18-64)
Outcome of interest: Gender-based violence; household work division
Covid-19 dimensions: Gender-based violence; mental health and wellbeing
Mode of data collection: Online survey and in-depth telephone interviews
Nature of activities: Data collection (surveys)
Research paper(s): N/A

Project Details

A study by Utari (2017) has shown that women in Indonesia do substantially more unpaid care work than men. This condition often leads to higher GBV incidence among women. Data from Indonesia’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that around one-third of women (ages 15–64) have experienced violence—including physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence—at least once during their lifetime. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic is predicted to exacerbate this situation. In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and in collaboration with Kapal Perempuan and Komnas Perempuan, researchers conducted online surveys and phone interviews with men and women to analyze the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on unpaid care work and GBV.

The online survey was aimed to gain a general overview of GBV and unpaid care work within the Indonesian population. The target population of the online survey was 1,000 individuals consisting of men and women (ages 18–64) across Indonesia. 

The qualitative phone interview aimed to explore GBV and unpaid care work in more detail. Researchers ran in-depth telephone interviews with 203 respondents who were divided into two groups. The first group consisted of 35 adult women who had survived GBV and volunteered to participate. Researchers collaborated with Kapal Perempuan and Komnas Perempuan to recruit these respondents. The second group consisted of 168 individuals, men and women, who were recruited through an open participant recruitment effort directed towards the general public (ages 18–64). 

Research Results

Covid-19 allowed respondents to try out new activities and have more time for self-care. Findings from the online survey show that around 30 percent of respondents spend more time on leisure, entertainment, or self-care activities during the pandemic. Our findings also show that more than 20 percent of respondents experience an increase in sleeping or break time. The incidence is higher among men, among respondents in poorer households, and among respondents with a diploma degree or higher.

Covid-19 induced work and economic challenges. According to the online survey, the average household has a monthly expenditure between IDR 2–4.6 million. Among survey respondents, about 8 percent of women were unemployed and seeking a job at the time of the survey. The share was higher among men at 15.2 percent. Among the unemployed participants, 53 percent were laid off due to the pandemic. The phone interviews found that participants lost their job due to social restrictions and limited mobility.

Sudden pandemic-induced changes and difficulties affected mental health. Respondents reported experiencing stress due to staying at home instead of going out to work or volunteering. Moreover, virtual meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic induced burnout as respondents go through the same routines during workdays. Respondents hope that the government expands the universal healthcare program to cover psychological services. 

Forty percent of respondents experienced an increase in the frequency of abuse during the pandemic. Researchers found that both women and men experienced increased violence during the pandemic. Figure 1 shows no significant difference between the gender over the rise in GBV. 

Figure  1 Respondents experiencing increased frequency of abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic (%)
Figure showing whether respondents were experiencing any type of abuse more frequently during the Covid-19 Pandemic in percentage

The main reasons for GBV were economic needs and unpaid care work. About 31 percent of respondents reported that incidences of violence stemmed from an inability to make ends meet. Another factor cited as a driver of GBV was unemployment (23 percent). Unpaid care work, particularly children's school homework (7 percent) and domestic work (7 percent) were next among the primary cited reasons for violence.

As the pandemic increases time spent at home, household chores also increase. There were no significant differences in types of activities before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, activities at home intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic. Childcare activities, in particular, were challenging as some study participants admitted that they have to juggle between work and child-rearing activities. Our study finds evidence that mother and father were both involved in child-rearing activities.

Figure  2 Time spent (hours) for household/domestic work within a day (%)
Figure showing time spent (hours) for household/domestic work within a day in percentage

Unpaid care work is unevenly distributed in the household. In a typical household, such work is generally the mother’s responsibility, particularly if other family members in the household work or study. The survey shows that the share of the women who spent more than three hours per day of unpaid care work was higher than that of men. Meanwhile, the proportion of men who contributed to unpaid care work for less than two hours was significantly higher than women.


The researchers would like to acknowledge Ma'rifatul Amalia, Chaerudin Kodir, Buhat Yulianto, Elghafiky Bimardhika, and Indriani Pratiwi from the J-PAL Southeast Asia office for their substantial contribution to this study.