Ferary, Dorothy (2017). 'The Benefits of Higher Education for Women in East Java Province, Indonesia: A Capability Approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


With the massification of HE, women are gradually outpacing men’s higher education participation (Vincent-Lancrin, 2008; HEPI, 2014, UNESCO, 2012; OECD 2012a). This trend, however, does not necessarily translate that gender inequality has been eliminated. As Rahbari (2016) argues, women’s position in the academic world has not changed significantly. Furthermore, salary gap among higher educated graduates is still in favour of men (DIUS, 2008). A similar trend can also be seen in Indonesia, where over 53% of gross enrolment rate in HE students are female (Kemenristekdikti, 2017a) yet the gap in employment persist (World Bank, 2012 p.216; Utomo, 2012).
Indonesia acknowledges the importance of protecting its citizens’ rights, freedom and welfare by having a constitution and various national laws and regulations in place. Gender mainstreaming’s strong presence can be seen in Indonesia’s five years development plan (RPJMN) 2015–2019 which include: (i) improving the quality of life and role of women in development; (ii) improving the protection of women from violence and trafficking; and (iii) improving institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming and protection of women against violence.  In spite of this commitment, gender inequalities still persist.  ILO and ADB (2014) recorded that Indonesia’s female labour force participation is significantly lower (50.3%) compared with male (84.4%). The gap in employment between men and women with higher education persist (World Bank, 2012 p.216; Utomo, 2012) as is gender-based income disparities (Akita and Miyata, 2008; Taniguchi and Tuwo, 2014; Tijdens and van Klaveren 2012). Since there is such gap, is it still important for women to continue obtaining higher education qualifications? If so, why?
Previous studies in Indonesia strongly emphasise the economic benefit of education. My research, however, will try to explore the non-economic benefits of higher education for women, using the capability approach framework (Sen, 1992; Nussbaum, 2000). The approach is utilised because it is seen an appropriate approach in addressing inequality for explicitly acknowledging human diversity  (Robeyns, 2003).
This research aims to fill the gap in the literature by highlighting the non-market and social benefit of higher education for women. This research will employ both quantitative and qualitative analysis, drawing data from women in East Java province, Indonesia.
This research aims to answer the question:
How does higher education influences the capabilities of Indonesian women?
1. How do students conceptualise higher education?
2. What do they think they will get out of it?
3. Besides the knowledge in their programme field, what other benefits have they obtained? This includes benefits offered by the university such as the opportunity to go for exchange studies, the opportunity to attend public lectures, the opportunity to live in a diverse environment, or it could be a question of personal development, such as greater independence and more confidence in expressing opinions.
To address the question, this research will look at three groups of women:

1. 20 current full-time female students at five institutions of higher education (which will be participating in a longitudinal study for a period of 3 years),

2. 25 higher educated working women who graduated from the five selected institutions (1 time interview only) , and

3. 25 higher educated non-working women who graduated from the five selected institutions (1 time interview only).

Interview method is deemed to be the best method in order to gather personal experience from these women.
It will be also interesting to find out from the unemployed group, how many genuinely want to work but cannot? What prevents them from getting a job? (Is it because of their chosen field, lack of experience, or gender discrimination?) How many can actually work but choose not to? What are the underlying reasons? (Is it a personal decision, or is it due to external influences?). Are there any benefits from the university that are useful in their current life?
In addition, it will also be intersting to find out from the employed higher educated group, did they end up finding a job that is related to their education? If yes, how many of them? If not, why not? Apart from expertise in their field, are there any other skills or competencies that they obtained from university life?

scroll to top