What Is Considered Tall in Indonesia?

If you want to feel taller, Indonesia may be one of top choices of where you’d want to move. The Indonesian people are one of the shortest populations on Earth. But how tall is “tall” in Indonesia, really?

The average height in Indonesia is 5’5″ (166 cm) for men and 5’1″ (154 cm) for women. A man who is 5’8″ (173 cm) or a woman who is 5’4″ (163 cm) would be in the tallest 1% of Indonesian people.

Below, I’ll share height comparison tables, so you can see how you compare to Indonesian men and women. I’ll also discuss what science has to say about why Indonesian people are so short.

Average Height in Indonesia

The average man in Indonesia is 5’5″ (166 cm), and the average woman is 5’1″ (154 cm). (source)

Some data sets actually list Indonesians as the #1 shortest population on Earth. That said, it varies by year and by data set.

Here are some comparisons to put Indonesians’ heights into context:

  • On average, Indonesian men are 11 cm (4.3″) shorter than men from the U.S., 12 cm (4.7″) shorter than men from Canada and the U.K., and 13 cm (5.1″) shorter than men from Australia.
  • On average, Indonesian women are 9 cm (3.5″) shorter than women from the U.S., 10 cm (3.9″) shorter than women from the U.K., and 11 cm (4.3″) shorter than women from Canada and Australia.

Below we will look at how Indonesia compares to other Asian countries for height. But before that, let’s look at the distribution of heights in Indonesia.

Height Comparison Tables

Are you curious how your height would compare to Indonesian men and women? Well, you can use the following two tables to check.

(Note: These tables compare your height to a 30-year-old Indonesian adult. Also, beware: The data used by this source differs from the other averages I cited above. It’s possible the estimates in this table are on the short side.)

First, let’s check how your height compares to Indonesian men:

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of Indonesian Men.
4’6″ (137 cm)~0%
4’7″ (140 cm)0.1%
4’8″ (142 cm)0.5%
4’9″ (145 cm)2%
4’10” (147 cm)4%
4’11” (150 cm)9%
5’0″ (152 cm)18%
5’1″ (155 cm)31%
5’2″ (157 cm)47%
5’3″ (160 cm)63%
5’4″ (163 cm)77%
5’5″ (165 cm)88%
5’6″ (168 cm)94%
5’7″ (170 cm)98%
5’8″ (173 cm)99%
5’9″ (175 cm)99.8%
5’10” (178 cm)99.9%
5’11″+ (180+ cm)~100%
How does your height compare to Indonesian men? (source)

Now, let’s check how your height compares to Indonesian women:

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of Indonesian Women.
4’3″ (130 cm)0.1%
4’4″ (132 cm)0.3%
4’5″ (135 cm)1%
4’6″ (137 cm)4%
4’7″ (140 cm)9%
4’8″ (142 cm)19%
4’9″ (145 cm)34%
4’10” (147 cm)52%
4’11” (150 cm)70%
5’0″ (152 cm)84%
5’1″ (155 cm)93%
5’2″ (157 cm)97%
5’3″ (160 cm)99%
5’4″ (163 cm)99.8%
5’5″ (165 cm)~100%
How does your height compare to Indonesian women? (source)

Why Are Indonesian People So Short?

Generally speaking, the two big factors that determine height are genetics and nutrition. It is thought that genetics determine 60% to 80% of height, while nutrition determines the other 20% to 40%. (source)

So, how can those factors explain the height of Indonesian people?

Well, it’s been suggested in Discover Magazine that Asian populations may be shorter due to a gene called HMGA2. The “short” allele of this gene appears to be more common in East Asian populations, compared to Europe and Africa.

So that may explain part of the genetic component. And there may be other genetic influences causing short stature in Indonesia, too.

Specific populations in Indonesia are even much shorter than the rest. The Rampasasa people of Flores, Indonesia, are considered by some researchers to be “pygmies” due to their average height of 146 cm (4’9″) in one study.

In fact, there was speculation that the people of Flores may even be genetically related to the archaic hominin species Homo floresiensis, who stood only 1 meter tall (known casually as “the Hobbit”). But this now seems mostly refuted.

Regardless of genetic influence, nutrition seems to play a big role in height in Indonesia. And this is usually the topic that gets more focus in any discussion of height in Indonesia today.

Are Indonesians Getting Taller or Shorter?

Over the past century, many Asian populations have grown much taller. Japan, South Korea, and other countries have seen major increases in average height.

Even nearby in Thailand, the official height standards for Thai children, men, and women have seen increases from the Thai government in recent years. (source)

But there’s been less rapid growth in Indonesia. While there has been some growth, they are still ranked among the world’s shortest people in recent years.

When judged by the WHO’s child growth standards, the prevalence of “stunting” is over 43% in some parts of Indonesia. (That is an alarming statistic, although some researchers believe the figure is misleading.)

This may mostly reflect on economic struggles still felt in Indonesia. Height is almost always connected to the economic development of a country, after all.

Indeed, a study of height in Java, Indonesia, found that birth year, education, and “share of household food expenditure” correlated to height. The study explains that education correlates to height because it’s a proxy for socioeconomic status.

Certainly, the countries with the most dramatic height growth in recent decades—South Korea, for example—have had a more dramatic rise out of poverty compared to Indonesia.

Height in Indonesia vs Other Asian Countries

Now let’s take a look at how Indonesia fits in with several other countries in SE Asia and East Asia for height:

CountryFemale Avg. HeightMale Avg. Height
Cambodia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
China5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Indonesia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (166 cm)
Japan5’2″ (158 cm)5’8″ (172 cm)
Malaysia5’2″ (157 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Philippines5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
Singapore5’3″ (161 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
South Korea5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Taiwan5’3″ (160 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
Thailand5’3″ (159 cm)5’7″ (171 cm)
Vietnam5’2″ (158 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Average Heights in Asia by Country. (Source)

As you can see, the shortest countries here are Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, the tallest are South Korea and China.

In the end, the definition of “tall” is subjective and imprecise, but to give an estimate based on all the data—many Indonesians would consider a man who is 5’8″ (173 cm) or a woman who is 5’4″ (163 cm) to be tall.