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Indonesian youth, take charge!

Jakarta Post Editorial - October 29, 2022

Jakarta – Once in the history of modern Indonesia, young men and women in their late teens and early 20s expressed their quest to change the course of the nation.

That happened in the Second Youth Congress in Jakarta on Oct. 28, 1928, when more than 700 of those young men and women from various parts of the then-Dutch East Indies boldly pledged "One Nation, One Country, One Language – Indonesia."

The event was the first real concerted movement toward a nationhood, which culminated in the independence proclamation on Aug. 17, 1945.

Where would we be today without these men and women? How we long to see the youth of today repeating the feat of those brave young men and women in making history with their gathering, commemorated each year as Youth Pledge Day.

The pledge is epic, proclaiming unity out of diverse ethnic groups populating the archipelago; the legacy of which we see today. Indonesian became the national and unifying language, even though most spoke their own local tongue or dialect. Often forgotten in the commemoration is the spirit the young men and women showed, despite restrictions from the Dutch colonial government.

Today, an independent and modern Indonesia faces completely different challenges and problems, but their solutions will require the participation, if not the leadership, of the youth, most particularly the millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and the Gen-Zers (born between 1997 and 2012).

As digital natives, they are far more adept than the rest of the nation to the digital transformation and with information and data readily available, the tech savvy youth is far more aware of the global issues and probably the solutions.

Many of today's problems, from the negative impacts of globalization, poverty and inequality, to injustices, poor governance, backsliding democracy and climate change, call for breakthroughs and initiatives from the young people.

They are the largest age-group as Indonesia is experiencing a demographic dividend – where the size of the young productive-age population is the largest – until 2030. Millennials and Gen-Zers now account for about 54 percent of the population of 270 million people, according to official statistics. Unless they are gainfully employed and thus contributing to the wealth of the economy, this dividend may turn into a disaster.

It is just unfortunate that the current political system does not support greater participation of the young people. Gerontocracy is the norm in political parties, refusing to make way for younger leaders.

Millennials and Gen-Zers, who will make up for more than 50 percent of voters, could change this in the 2024 elections if they play more active roles in politics to challenge the status quo by running for office and exercising their right to vote to make a real difference. Their political apathy will not.

The millennials and Gen-Zers need to take charge of the country, sooner than later. Competition between nations is now largely driven by the control of information and communication technology. On this front, Indonesia admittedly lags behind some of its Asian neighbors. The trajectory that predicts Indonesia to join the top five economies in the world by 2045 is conditional on its ability to catch up in the digital transformation.

Much like the youth in 1928, the millennials and Gen-Zers have the power to change the nation's direction. Indonesia's future is in their hands.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/10/29/indonesian-youth-take-charge.htm