Youth should be the agents of change in communities to reduce problems caused by urbanization and industrialization, experts say.
The Central Statistics Agency estimates Indonesia will reach a 68 percent urbanization rate by 2025.
In several provinces, especially in Java and Bali, urbanization rates are higher than the national rate.
As the urbanization rate climbs, so do subsequent problems such as unemployment and slow economy in rural areas, as productive-aged people move to cities.
Dina Afrianty, a researcher from Center for the Study of Islam and Society at Islamic National University UIN Syarif Hidayatullah, said that youth should play an important role in tackling urbanization problems, citing students in Iwate Prefecture University in Japan undertaking projects to spur the local economy.
The students, who were sent by the university to stay with the communities, organized a cultural event at one village, attracting people from neighboring villages to come.
“In Indonesia, there is a subject at universities called social work field program (KKN), but the activity is not aimed at helping locals. We can follow the example of the universities in Japan,” she said.
Dina and her three colleagues were invited by the Japan Foundation to participate at the Invitation Program for Young Muslim Intellectuals in Southeast Asia Focusing on Urbanization.
Japan has one of the fastest urbanization rates in the world. Of all 47 provinces in Japan, only seven have populations under one million people.
Haula Noor, a psychology lecturer at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah,
said that urbanization also caused social disorders, as people had less time to interact with family and friends.
In Japan, urbanization problems included a high suicide rate, with 30,000 suicide cases recorded in 2009. Indonesia also saw rising suicide cases, with 50,000 cases recorded between 2004 and 2007.
Reasons to commit suicide are mostly economic as well as a lack of support from families and friends.
To tackle this social problem, a Japanese non-profit organization, Katariba, meaning “a place of sharing”, has been raising students’ awareness on the importance of politics and organizations.
The organization hopes that by involving youth in politics, they can channel their aspirations instead of simply becoming consumers of globalization and urbanization.
“We can apply this strategy in Indonesia as we have mass organizations such as National Youth Committee of Indonesia (KNPI) and Indonesia Youth Parliament (IYP),” Haula said.
Urban expert Nirwono Yoga said that youth could take part in solving the urbanization problems by changing their attitudes and behaviors.
He said that cities had good infrastructure and transportation systems, but due to the lack of awareness, people did not use the facilities as they should.
“For example, the city has buses and trains, but many people do not wait for the buses at the shelters. They litter and do not care about the cleanliness of the public transportation,” he said.
He suggested that the government could raise youth awareness through the education system or religious teaching.
He also advised the government to start educating people to live in vertical housing to overcome the housing problem.
“If people move from landed residences to vertical housing, they will change their lifestyles, including how they use water, how they process garbage and how they use public transportation,” he said.
Ken Miichi, an associate professor at Iwate Prefecture University, said another urbanization problem was the aging society that was left in rural areas while the youth left for the cities.
He said that, in Japan, there were insurance policies covering nursing home costs for the elderly.
“Indonesia still has a big population. But in the next 20 years, I think it is possible that Indonesia will face this problem too,” he said.