KUALA LUMPUR: More must be done to improve women’s labour force participation and alleviating women’s challenge to balance family and work is key, as 2.6 million women, mostly educated and of prime-working age, stayed out of the labour force due to family responsibilities.
Khazanah Research Institute, in its report The State of Households 2018, said women’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) improved to 53.5% in 2017, from 44.6% in 1995, attributed to an increase in self-employed women in the workforce. However, the LFPR gap between men and women still remains large, with 58% or 2.6 million working-age women choosing to remain out of labour force last year, opting instead to perform other household duties.
Raising women’s employment levels by 30% would not only raise Malaysia’s GDP by 7-12%, but also serve as a potential remedy for an ageing population by alleviating the burden of labour force participants providing for the rest of the population by around 30%. This is provided that the gender gap is closed in the next 12 years.
Malaysian working-age women are more highly educated than men, but a large proportion of them are outside the labour force.
“We view women in the workforce to be critical,” said report lead author Allen Ng, adding that including more women in the labour force helps growth.
Empowering women economically unlocks multitudes of economic benefits in diverse ways, particularly, at a time when the future is increasingly shaped by rapid technological advancement, gender equality is of great importance as an innovation drive.
The report said flexibility in work arrangements is instrumental in enabling women who are willing to join the labour force to do so. This could be offered either through flexible hours or work places, childcare facilities at work or the like.
Redistributing family responsibilities between men and women is also 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 institution. This would involve, among others, ensuring policies aimed at facilitating work-home balance such as flexibility arrangement and parental leave as accessible options not only for women, but for men as well.
“Development goes beyond income. It has to be more holistic, we’ve to take into the angles of… are we in the right areas? Are we sustainable, resilient, do we have good institutions and governance? A lot of this comes down to investment in human capital. We cannot stop investing in human capital for us to move to the next step. We have to move beyond just looking at income, which is not a complete picture of development,” said Ng. – by Ee Ann Nee
Source: The Sun Daily