The Government Has Declared That 2018 Will Be Women Empowerment Year. Here’s What To Expect

Here are the government’s women empowerment initiatives from the 2018 national budget.

During the 2018 national budget speech last Friday, Prime Minister Najib Razak declared that 2018 will be Women Empowerment Year. While we’re not quite sure what this will entail besides the newly announced initiatives aimed at supporting women, we think it will be a good thing and we look forward to seeing what 2018 will bring.

Until then, here are the initiatives from the RM280.25 billion budget allocation that women in Malaysia can look forward to in the upcoming year.

1. More women in higher positions

As we highlighted over International Women’s Day this year, one of the things Malaysia can do better to narrow the gender gap is to improve the position of women in the economy. Basically, by improving women’s working conditions, opportunities, pay and so on.

Surveys and studies show that women tend not to occupy high positions in companies compared to men. Whatever the cause, the government would like change it– starting with enforcing a requirement that women must occupy at least 30% on the Boards of Directors of Government Linked Companies (GLCs), Government Linked Investment Companies (GLICs) and Statutory Bodies in Malaysia by the end of 2018.

While some people remain skeptical about affirmative action quotas, a more diverse board of leadership is often a good thing.

2. Longer maternity leave

The government has proposed for private sector employers to increase their mandatory maternity leave from 60 to 90 days, to match what’s offered by public sectors.

The public sector gets it even better– the government would like for their employees in their fifth month of pregnancy onwards to be able to go home an hour earlier. With how taxing pregnancy can be in its later stages, an initiative like this to reduce the number of hours a pregnant woman works could in fact encourage them to stay at their jobs longer, causing less disruption to a company.

And if your husband works in the same area, he’ll be able to leave work an hour earlier as well. This sounds like a great idea. We imagine this will make it easier for pregnant employees to make it to their doctor’s checkups and for their husbands to accompany them and play a role in the pregnancy.

Next step, mandatory paternity leave, please.

3. More incentives to return to work

In an article we published earlier this year, we highlighted the difficulties faced by women when they take a career break. And because most women do take breaks when they start their family, the potential difficulties of returning to work, a lot of women tend to never return at all. Yet it is universally acknowledged that this loss of potential is damaging to both companies and the national economy as a whole.

To encourage women to return to work, the government is proposing a 12-month income tax exemption for women who reenter the workforce after a break of at least 2 years. This incentive is available for women who return to the workforce between the year of assessment 2018 to 2020.

4. More accesible child care at work

In line with their aim to achieve better work-life balance, the government has mandated that local authorities are required to ensure that childcare facilities are provided in all new office buildings, starting with Kuala Lumpur.

5.  More education

Finally, the government has allocated RM20 million for women to attend training and entrepreneurship programmes, including the PEAK Entrepreneur Programme under MyWin Academy, an avant-garde institution aimed at enculturing innovation for the advancement and empowerment of women. Lifelong learning is key to making it through the changing times, and we’re always glad to see education being made more accessible.

Source: The Ministry of Finance