Women make up only two-fifths of labour force, report finds

Flexi hours is one of the options that can encourage more women to join the labour force.

KUALA LUMPUR: Women’s participation in the country’s labour market constitute only two-fifths of the total labour force even though half of the Malaysian working-age population are women.

According to a Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) report, in the 2017 Global Gender Gap report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Malaysia ranked 87 out of 144 countries in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, down seven places from 2016.

Among Asean countries, Malaysia ranks higher only to Indonesia (108th place) whereas most of the country’s regional peers rank significantly above Malaysia, Laos (22), Singapore (27), Vietnam (33), and Brunei (61).

“Whilst global awareness of the gender gap in the labour force has burgeoned in recent years, more needs to be studied with regard to the state of women in the economy in Malaysia,” according to the report titled ‘The State of Households 2018: Different Realities’.

The report was launched by Khazanah Nasional Berhad managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan today.

Among other highlights of the report are:

* Men and women make up a roughly equal proportion of the working-age population but the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of both sexes differs significantly.

* In 2017, the Malaysian working-age population comprised of 9.5 million women and 9.8 million men and, of this, only 53.5% of women participated in the labour force compared with 77.7% of men.

* There are substantially more women outside the labour force than men – twice to be exact, with 4.4 million women and 2.2 million men.

* Despite their academic qualifications, many women are hindered from participating in the labour force due to family responsibilities.

* Malaysian women earn less than men. In 2013, Malaysian women on average earned 8.3% less than men; four years later, the gender pay gap stands at 6.2%, where women’s mean monthly salaries and wages mark RM2,772, and men’s, RM2,954.

* One of the core reasons underlying the gender inequality pattern in Malaysia is the disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work borne by women.

The report also suggests a few initiatives to alleviate women’s challenge to balance family and work, including flexibility in work arrangements which could be offered either through flexible hours or workplaces, childcare facilities at work or the like.

Redistributing family responsibilities between men and women is as important as any other labour market measures to enable women’s economic empowerment and, at the same time, to ensure the strengthening of family institutions, it said.