Understanding the livelihoods and aspirations of young people in the face of agrarian change and development in South Sulawesi

This report presents a detailed analysis and overview of the livelihoods, skills, education and aspirations of rural young people in the Maros district of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.


The Maros district is undergoing major agrarian change characterised by infrastructure development, urbanisation, mining and the expansion of commodity crops. These widespread changes create a new and uncertain future for South Sulawesi’s young people and calls for integrated policies that support young people’s skills development and feasible employment opportunities.

This study aims to better understand young people’s involvement in both farming-related and non-farming activities and how their aspirations, skills, education and labour opportunities align with the social and economic conditions of rural, coastal and peri-urban areas of Maros district.

Overall, the findings show that the youth labour force of Maros district is large and growing, with individuals aged 15-24 years comprising 16 percent of the total labour force, particularly in peri-urban areas (Turikale, Madai and Bontoa). The youth labour force is dominated by males, particularly in the 20-29-year age bracket, which is also the age range with the lowest female labour force numbers.


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As South Sulawesi continues to develop, growing pressure is being placed on some rural and coastal farming families. This is due to the declining productivity and total area of farmland, land acquisition for urban or infrastructure development and shifting aspirations toward non-farm work in cities. Young people are increasingly relying on new forms of mobility, diversified income sources and access to new skills and educational opportunities.

Our results inform the following recommendations:

1. Implement programs at both provincial and district levels that incentivise youth to continue with high-quality vocational schooling.
2. Accelerate the redistribution of securely tenured lands to smallholders to support their livelihoods and food security.
3. Leverage infrastructure development plans as opportunities to provide local young people with new skills and employment prospects at national and provincial levels.
4. Tailor vocational and job-readiness training to meet the needs of employers, thereby increasing the chances of SMK graduates securing skilled jobs.
5. Identify gender-specific and village-specific SMK training opportunities in rural and coastal areas, such as tourism and retail management, sustainable farming and supply chain management and automotive sector training.
6. Develop incentives and sanctions based on institutional performance covering schools and related government offices.
7. Foster a lifelong learning culture by establishing connections with business and industry, as well as providing teacher training and support to improve the relevance of vocational training and work experience for SMK students.
8. Strengthen collaboration, communication and trust between government, business and non-state actors around industry job demand by using multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs).
9. Launch campaign and promote SMK activities with media support to reduce negative stereotypes associated with SMKs.

Feature image by PAIR.