Malaysia lags in female workforce participation: Gender pay gap, low representation cited

Progress stalled by unequal pay, leadership imbalance

Farhana Abd Kadir
Farhana Abd Kadir
08 Mar 2024 02:31pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. Small picture: Idham
Photo for illustration purpose only. Small picture: Idham
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SHAH ALAM - Malaysia's female labour force participation rate stands at 55.8 per cent, placing it below the developing country average of 60 per cent.

This is further highlighted by the nation's ranking of 102nd out of 146 East Asian and Pacific countries, lagging behind regional neighbors like Singapore (49th), Vietnam (72nd), and Thailand (74th).

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM) Senior Lecturer Dr Mohamad Idham Md Razak said the gender wage gap is one of the factors affecting the percentage of labour force participation rate due to the lack of women in various employment sectors.

He said although there has been an improvement in women's participation in some sectors, the level of income received by that group is very low even though the responsibilities and duties are the same as men.

"The involvement of women in the Malaysian economic sector is still far different with only 55.8 per cent compared to 81.9 per cent of opportunities given to men.

"This does not only cover the workforce that requires physical strength but also includes the professional work field as a whole.

"Based on data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) in November 2022, the estimated annual salary is different when men are paid around RM63,117 compared to women at the level of RM42,080," he told Sinar recently.

Idham said that the issue of gender monopoly in the employment sector is not only influenced by economic sentiment but also by political dominance.

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He said the percentage of women who hold ministerial portfolios is only 17.9 per cent compared to 82.1 per cent of men.

"This shows that leadership led by men is much higher than women in this country," he said.

To address the challenge, he said the government needs to provide a support ecosystem, including financial assistance for business start-ups.

Meanwhile, research agency Ipsos said Malaysia still needs to deal with the perception and societal pressure that exists to ensure gender equality even though it has reached a satisfactory level at the moment.

Ipsos, in a statement, said that a global study conducted on gender equality involving 31 countries found that there is a gap in perception and attitude towards the current level of progress in gender equality between various countries.

For example, it said, about four out of 10 Malaysians still want male leaders in the workplace, even though the world's population generally accepts leaders without bias towards either gender.

"Gender equality also faces its obstacles. In this regard, about half of the respondents agreed that existing efforts in promoting gender equality were considered excessive and unfair to men.

"In Malaysia, most respondents think men are asked to sacrifice too much for gender equality.

"In addition, there is a widespread perception that women receive special treatment in various sectors," the agency said.

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