Overseas Indonesians

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Overseas Indonesians
Orang Indonesia Perantauan
Overseas Indonesians Map speciment (svg).svg
Total population
c. 8 million (2015)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Netherlandsest 3,120,000 (2019)[2]
 Singaporeest 2,740,000 (2019)[3]
 Malaysiaest 2,550,000 (2019)[4]
 Taiwanest 780,000 (2019)[5]
 Hong Kongest 645,200 (2019)[6]
 Saudi Arabiaest 610,000 (2018)[7]
 United States505,010 (2019)[8]
 Australia105,870 (2019)[9]
 Suriname102,000 (2019)[10]note
 United Arab Emirates100,000 (2019)[11]
 Japan91,448 (2019)[12][13]
 South Korea84,279 (2019)[14]
 Canada56,136 (2019)[15]
 Germany54,941 (2019)[16]
Indonesian, Regional Languages of Indonesia, English, Dutch, Chinese
Islam · Christianity · Hinduism · Buddhism · Confucianism · Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Native Indonesians, Dutch Indonesians, Arab Indonesians, Chinese Indonesians

Overseas Indonesians are people of Indonesian birth or descent who live outside of Indonesia. As of 2015, there are about 8 million overseas Indonesians globally.[1]


Since ancient times, people from various ethnic groups of Indonesia have been leaving their hometowns to other parts of the world for purposes of trade, education, labor, or travel. During the colonial era, many Indonesians were sent for enslavement by the Dutch East Indies to their other colonies such as Suriname and New Caledonia, while political dissidents against Dutch colonization were sent to South Africa from Indonesia during the 18th century, forming a group known as Cape Malays.[17] Some ethnic groups outside of Indonesia also have Indonesian ancestry; for example, the Malagasy people are descended from Borneo seafarers who traveled to Madagascar from the Malay Archipelago in the 7th and 8th centuries during the peak of the maritime Srivijaya empire.[18]


The practice of going abroad has been motivated by the Merantau culture of the Indonesian people since ancient times. Merantau has been associated deeply with the Minangkabau people as a cultural way of life. A Minangkabau man at the time of young adulthood (20–30 years old) is often encouraged to go abroad as part of the Minangkabau culture; this serves as a sign of manhood to accrue wealth, knowledge, and life experience.[19] This practice can be traced to the 7th century, when Minangkabau merchants played a major role in establishing of the Malay kingdom in Jambi, which was a strategic position for trade via the Silk Road.

Other Indonesian ethnic groups such as the Bugis, Banjar, Madura, Aceh, Batak, and Javanese have also been traveling overseas to gain opportunities, experience, knowledge, and versatility.

Indonesians Worldwide[edit]


Before Dutch and British sailors arrived in Australia, Indonesians from Southern Sulawesi have explored the Australia northern coast. Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down on the northwestern monsoon in their wooden pinisi. They would stay in Australia for several months to trade and take tripang (or dried sea cucumber) before returning to Makassar on the dry season off shore winds. These trading voyages continued until 1907.[citation needed] Nowadays, many Indonesian residents of Australia are either foreign students or workers, with a large number being of Chinese Indonesian heritage. Furthermore, the Cocos Malays are descendants of native Indonesians were brought by the Clunies-Ross family to work in the copra industry in the 19th century.

Hong Kong[edit]

Indonesians are the second largest foreigner group after Filipinos, mainly working as female domestic helpers from Java Island. There are also several Chinese Indonesian families and students that reside in Hong Kong. Central and Wan Chai are the main districts that most Indonesians live in.


In 2013, approximately 20,000 Indonesians lived in Japan, including about 3,000 illegal Indonesians. These numbers dropped from the previous years for various reasons, including the high cost of living in Japan and the difficulty of finding jobs in Japan. Most of them are in Japan for a short term and deportation remains high for Indonesian residents.


Malaysia shares a land border with Indonesia and both countries share many aspects of their culture, including mutually intelligible national languages. Populations have long moved between the areas which make up the modern-day states. Since the distinction between the two regions emerged in the early 19th century, many people from Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, which are located in modern-day Indonesia, migrated and settled in the Malay Peninsula and in Malaysian Borneo. These earlier populations have mostly effectively or partially assimilated with the larger Malaysian-Malay community due to religious, social and cultural similarities. Currently, it is also estimated that there are around 2 million Indonesian citizens in Malaysia at any given time, ranging from all types of backgrounds including a significant majority of labour migrants alongside a considerable number of professionals and students.


Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands from 1605 until 1945. In the early 20th century, many Indonesian students studied in the Netherlands. Most of them lived in Leiden and were active in the Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Association). During and after the Indonesian National Revolution, many Moluccans and Indo people, people of mixed Dutch and Indonesian ancestry migrated to the Netherlands. Most of them were former members of the KNIL army. In this way, around 360,000 Indo people and Totoks (white people) and 12,500 persons from Maluke ancestry were settled in the Netherlands. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Denny Landzaat, Roy Makaay, Mia Audina, and Daniel Sahuleka are notable people of Indonesian ancestry from the Netherlands. These 372,500 first generation people and their 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation offspring account for some 1.6 million Dutch passport-holders and form as much as 10% of the overall population of the Netherlands.


Indonesians in the Philippines number anywhere from 43,871 to 101,720.[20] They reside mostly in the island of Mindanao, in the Muslim parts with a noticeable community in Davao City that has an international school for the overseas community. They tend to be protective of their separate ethnic identity. Most are Muslims, while many others are also Christian, coming from Minahasan-speaking ancestry.


There are about 39,000 Indonesian citizens in the State of Qatar according to the Indonesian Embassy.[21]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Islamic teachers from Indonesia in Mecca, 1955

Indonesian pilgrims have long lived in Hejaz, a region along the west coast of Saudi Arabia. Among them was Shaykh Ahmad Khatib Al-Minangkabawi who was from Minangkabau origin in Sumatra. He served as the Imam and taught at the Shafi'i school at the Grand Mosque in Mecca during the late 19th century.[22]

Many Indonesians in Saudi Arabia are domestic workers, with a minority of other types of labour migrants and students. Most of the santris (Islamic boarding school pupils) from Indonesia also have continued to pursue their education in Saudi, such as in the Islamic University of Madinah and the Umm al-Qura University in Mecca. A number of Indonesian expatriates in Saudi Arabia work in diplomatic sectors and local private and foreign companies, such as in the Saudi Aramco, banking companies, Saudia Airlines, SABIC, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Indomie, etc. Most Indonesians in Saudi Arabia reside in Riyadh, Jeddah, and all around the Dammam area.

Saudis of Indonesian descent[edit]

There are Saudi citizens who reside in Mecca and Jeddah that are of Indonesian descent. Their forefathers came from Indonesia by sea during the late 19th century til the mid 20th century for pilgrimage, trade, and Islamic education purposes. Many of them did not return to their homeland thus they decided to stay in Saudi and their descendants have become Saudi citizens ever since. Many of them also married with local Arab women and stayed permanently in Saudi. Their descendants today are recognizable with their family name originating from their forefathers' origins back in Indonesia, such as "Bugis", "Banjar", "Batawi" (Betawi), "Al-Felemban" (Palembang), "Faden" (Padang), "Al-Bantani" (Banten), "Al-Minangkabawi" (Minangkabau), "Bawayan" (Bawean), and many more. One of them is Muhammad Saleh Benten, a Saudi politician appointed by King Salman as the Minister of Hajj and Umrah.[23]

The former Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Gatot Abdullah Mansyur stated that 50% of Mecca residents are of Indonesian descent. This has been possible because of trade between the two nations, since the era of the Rashidun Caliphate with the Malay archipelago in the old times.[24]


The Malays in Singapore (Malay: Orang Melayu Singapura) make up about 14% of the country's population. Most of them came from what we know today as Indonesia and southern Malaysia. In the 19th century, Singapore was part of Johor-Riau Sultanate. Many Indonesian people, mainly Bugis and Minangkabau settled in Singapore. From 1886 till 1890, as many as 21,000 Javanese became bonded labourers with the Singapore Chinese Protectorate, an organisation formed by the British in 1877 to monitor the Chinese population. They performed manual labour in the rubber plantations. After their bond ended, they continued to open up the land and stayed on in Johore. Famous Singaporeans of Indonesian descent are the first president of Singapore Yusof bin Ishak, and Zubir Said who composed the national anthem of Singapore Majulah Singapura.

According to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore, as of 2010 there are 180,000 Indonesian citizens in Singapore. As much as 80,000 work as domestic helpers/TKI, 10,000 as sailors, and the rest are either students or professionals. But the number can be higher as registering one's residence is not compulsory for Indonesians, putting the number to around 200,000 people.

South Africa[edit]

South Korea[edit]


People of Indonesian descent, mainly Javanese, make up 15% of the population of Suriname. In the 19th century, the Dutch sent the Javanese to Suriname as indentured laborers in plantations. The most famous person of Indonesian descent is Paul Somohardjo as the speaker of the National Assembly of Suriname.[25]


United Arab Emirates[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

The United States is home to many Indonesian students and professionals. In the Silicon Valley region of Northern California, there are many professional Indonesian-American engineers in the technology industry who are employed in companies like Cisco Systems, KLA Tencor, Google, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems, and IBM. Sehat Sutardja, the CEO of Marvell Technology Group, is a prominent Indonesian professional in the USA.[26]

In April 2011, the Special English service of Voice of America reported on a push for American universities to attract more Indonesians to study in America in order to compete with students' preferred universities in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Memanfaatkan Diaspora Indonesia". Tempo.co. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Ada 1,8 Juta Diaspora Indonesia di Belanda". Swa.co.id. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Kian ramai dari Indonesia jadi warga" (PDF) (in Malay). Berita Harian. 20 February 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Di Hadapan BMI Malaysia, Menlu Retno Tekankan Prioritas Perlindungan WNI" (in Indonesian). Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur. 27 January 2015. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016. Diperkirakan terdapat sekitar 2,5 juta warga Indonesia berada di Malaysia, dimana hampir setengahnya berstatus ilegal.
  5. ^ "Indonesia, Taiwan sign agreement on migrant protections". The Jakarta Post. 30 April 2011. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  6. ^ Media Indonesia Online 30 November 2006
  7. ^ Maulana, Victor (23 October 2018). "600.000 WNI Tinggal di Saudi, Dua Menlu Bahas Perlindungan". SINDOnews.com. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Meet Marvell" (PDF). Forbes Magazine. 14 August 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2006.
  9. ^ "Statistics". Abs.gov.au.[dead link]
  10. ^ Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka – Population by ethnic group according to districts, 2012
  11. ^ Ruiz, Ramona (30 May 2012). "Indonesian envoy wants fewer maids sent to UAE". The National. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  12. ^ Sakurai 2003: 33
  13. ^ Sakurai 2003: 41
  14. ^ KIS Statistics 2013 (PDF). Korean Immigration Service. 29 May 2014. p. 378. ISSN 2005-0356. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  15. ^ Census 2006
  16. ^ Indonesians in Germany – their engagement in the development Archived 19 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine (2016)
  17. ^ "Bo Kaap: The History Behind the Cape Malays of Cape Town". pilotguides. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  18. ^ "How the Banjar people of Borneo became ancestors of the Malagasy and Comorian people". theconversation. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  19. ^ "The Wanderers of Nusantara". https://roadsandkingdoms.com. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2019. External link in |website= (help)
  20. ^ Population by country of citizenship, sex, and urban/rural residence; each census, 1985–2004, United Nations Statistics Division, 2005, retrieved 2011-06-15
  21. ^ Snoj, Jure (18 December 2013). "Population of Qatar". Bqdoha.com. Archived from the original on 22 December 2013.
  22. ^ Ricklefs, M. C. (1994). A History of Modern Indonesia Since c. 1300. Stanford University Press.
  23. ^ Mohammed Saleh Benten, Menteri Arab Saudi Keturunan Banten. Ini Profilnya (Mohammed Saleh Benten, A Saudi Minister of Banten Descent. This is his Profile) (in Indonesian), Nusantarakini.com, March 2017, retrieved 23 September 2019
  24. ^ Mantan Dubes RI: 50 Persen Penduduk Makkah Keturunan Indonesia (Former Indonesian Ambassador: 50 percent Mecca residents are of Indonesian descent (in Indonesian), Republika.co.id, 28 March 2016, retrieved 23 September 2019
  25. ^ "English Not On Menu For Wednesday's Press Briefing". Malaysian National News Agency. 22 September 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Meet Marvell" (PDF). Forbes Magazine. 14 August 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2006.
  27. ^ Ember, Steve; Schonhardt, Sara (13 April 2011). "A Push to Get More Indonesians to Study in US". VoA. Retrieved 24 June 2016.