Malaysia can do better to achieve its high income status, but only if more women are involved in the workforce with the help of labour market reforms, according to recent chart released by the International Money Fund (IMF). The research has shown that more women going to work will benefit the country’s economy development.
Women’s employment in Malaysia was seeing rapid growth between 2010 and 2016, as it moved at faster rate compared to male employment at 4.5 percent and 2 percent compound rates respectively. Health and hospitality services, as well as the public sector saw the highest influx of female participation influx to the workforce.
Further, IMF analysis found that the contribution of female employment to Malaysia’s economic growth has accelerated in the last few years, from an average of 4 percent in 2001 to 2008 of real GDP growth, rose significantly to 14 percent in 2011 to 2016. Meanwhile, the contribution of male employment increased from about 7 percent of GDP to about 13 percent of GDP.
IMF pointed out that Malaysia has the potential to do more. Malaysia’s labour force participation rate for women, when compared to some of the regional economies and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, stays at above 54 percent. This figure is relatively low, both in absolute and relative terms. As a comparison, men’s participation rate is about 80 percent.
See: London Firm Allows Staff to Set Their Own Salaries to Counter Pay Gap
To keep the momentum going, Malaysia’s government need to prioritise in improving female worker participation rate by 5 percentage points to 59 percent by 2020. IMF said that education will hold key role to achieve this. With enrollment rates in high school and university education are now higher for women than for men, this can help women get employment in skilled occupations.
But for less educated women, their labour force participation rates are particularly lower than their male counterparts. Data shows that unemployment rate is higher for women, particularly for those living in rural areas, aged below 29 years, or primary school educated. This means that the country needs to improve the quality of education.
The government is not turning a blind eye to this matter. For example, the Malaysia Education Blueprint Plan is set to improve the quality of education and build skills that are viable in the global market. Additionally, the government’s 2018 budget includes set of policies that can help improve women’s labor force participation, such as increasing the duration of maternity leave for the private sector to 90 days to match that of the public sector and setting a minimum of 30 percent participation of women in boards of government-linked companies and investment companies by end-2018.
Malaysian authority is also implementing personal income tax exemptions on a maximum of 12-months consecutive salary for women, with a career break of at least two years for those who intend to return to the workforce between 2018 and 2020. Other policies, like increasing access to childcare facilities and family–friendly labor laws, could also help as most women report housework or family responsibility as the dominant reason for being outside the labor force.
Read also: Pregnant Migrant Workers in Southeast Asia Facing Systemic Discrimination