Unsurprisingly, What’s Keeping Malaysian Women From Working Is Housework | International Women’s Day 2018

For men, it’s because they’re pursuing further education.

When we went over the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report last year, we showed that Malaysia still lags far behind in terms of the economic equality between men and women. Basically that means that women in Malaysia earn less than men at every education and employment level, occupy far less higher ranking roles, and are far less likely than men to be working or looking for a job.

One year on, and things haven’t changed much. Although women make up basically half of Malaysia’s population, they only make up two-fifths of the Malaysian workforce. Only 52.8% of working age Malaysian women were employed or looking for jobs in 2016, compared to 77.7% of men, researchers from Khazanah Research Institute have found. These numbers, by the way, place us at 105 out of 144 countries worldwide for workforce participation equality.

Why is it so important for women to work, you ask? For one, more people in the workforce is great for both the nation’s economy and individual companies. On an individual level, the financial independence and life experience that comes from having a job is priceless to each person– not to mention that many women have career goals they’d like to achieve.

So what’s keeping Malaysian women from working?

According to economic think-tank Khazanah Research Institute, 60% or 2.6 million Malaysian women who stay out of the workforce choose to do so because due to housework. Only 3% or 64,000 men gave the same reason. Instead, the most common reason keeping men out of work was their pursuit of further education.

Source: Khazanah Research Institute

As women, we shoulder far more of the housework than men do, even if we also have full-time jobs. As anyone will tell you, managing a home and its chores can be just as intense as working full-time. Yet we’re expected to do both. Then imagine adding pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare to the mix.

“The fact that housework is disproportionately borne by women is often overlooked but it is fundamental in any discourse on women’s economic empowerment. Women, not just in Malaysia but across the world, often face higher barriers to accessing paid work compared to men not necessarily because they are less educated or qualified, but because they shoulder a disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care.” – Khazanah Research Institute

And it doesn’t help that getting your career back on track is almost impossible if you take a break to cope with your household or family demands. Is it any wonder that it’s so hard to keep women working, even if we are just as educated or better than our male counterparts?

Now that 2018 is supposed to be Women Empowerment Year, it’s time to seriously think about what’s keeping women out of the workforce and how to get them back in. Whether it’s making it easier for employees to juggle workplace and household demands, or breaking stereotypes and expectations that women are responsible for domestic chores, we have to start somewhere.

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