RM370bil unseen cost of women’s unpaid work at home


Free Malaysia Today
Malaysia is significantly losing out on economic growth and gender equality due to the absence of public investment in the care economy, says a policy paper.

PETALING JAYA: Investing in the care economy will bring more women into the labour force, which can help improve Malaysia’s ranking on the gender gap index, says a senior analyst.

Lee Min Hui, of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said many women who drop out of the labour force to focus on being homemakers are not financially supported.

Lee Min Hui
Lee Min Hui.

“If we look at the rankings, Malaysia does well in education, but this doesn’t translate into labour force participation.

“That’s why we’re doing quite poorly on the economic opportunity side,” Lee told FMT after the launch on Friday of an Isis policy paper on “Building a cradle-to-grave care economy for Malaysia”.

According to the paper, Malaysia is significantly losing out on economic growth and gender equality due to the absence of public investment in the care economy.

“If the unpaid care work produced in Malaysian homes every day could be valued in GDP figures, it would create about RM379 billion, accounting for a fifth of the service sector.

“By removing care constraints preventing participation in the labour force, Malaysia stands to enable 3.2 million workers to engage in paid employment and unlock 4.9% points in GDP growth in 2022 alone,” the paper notes.

According to the global gender gap index of the World Economic Forum, Malaysia fell 12 spots to be ranked 114th out of 146 countries.

Malaysia and 27 other countries were ranked joint first for educational attainment but the country fared poorly in other areas: health and survival (80th), economic participation and opportunity (102nd) and political empowerment (134th).

Lee said the low political empowerment ranking was due to the country’s failure to reach 30% female political participation, despite pledges by Umno, PKR and DAP to hit the goal during the 2022 general election.

Last year, FMT reported that women candidates made up about 25% of DAP’s candidates, 17% of PKR’s candidates and 7.2% of Bersatu’s candidates.

Quota system in politics

A quota system for women as election candidates was proposed by Tengku Aira Tengku Razif, the assistant Malaysia representative of the United Nations Population Fund.

Tengku Aira and Lee said more women were needed as MPs, to advocate gender equality, women’s empowerment and health.

Free Malaysia Today
Tengku Aira Tengku Razif.

“As women in Malaysia have a longer life expectancy, Malaysia’s response to our ageing population should also take into account the health and wellbeing needs of aged women,” Tengku Aira told FMT.

For instance, she said, the country must focus on making human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination accessible to everyone since cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting Malaysian women.

“While HPV vaccination is provided in secondary schools, it may not cover all girls in schools as enrolment in secondary school isn’t compulsory.

“It would be good to amend the law to make vaccination in secondary schools compulsory, meanwhile ensuring investment in HPV vaccination monitoring and screening in out-of-school settings,” she added.

Endless road to reach gender parity

Although the World Economic Forum has found that full gender parity can only be achieved after 134 years, or around five generations beyond the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal objective, Tengku Aira said it is impossible for Malaysia to hit the target.

“Aligning with the (UN’s) global analysis, it will take 300 years, so (Malaysia) will at least be closer to that, not a hundred years,” she said. - FMT

RM370bil unseen cost of women’s unpaid work at home