KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — More Chinese employers now prefer to hire men in response to a new policy that gives women longer paid maternity leave, according to a survey released by the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce (ACCCIM) today.
The new maternity leave policy was among the key concerns Chinese business owners have about the amended Employment Act 2022 in its latest Business and Economic Conditions Survey which gauged sentiment about the impact of the amendments on operating costs.
“We observe that respondents have indicated a shift to a higher male-to-female ratio in their employment (41.3 per cent) to mitigate against the impact of higher maternity leave,” the group told the press here.
“This does not bode well for encouraging women’s participation in the labour force and promoting gender equality,” it added.
Federal lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to raise paid maternity leave to 98 days from 60 previously last year in a move that was welcomed by labour and women's rights groups, but frowned at by employers who said the policy would raise their operating expenditure "significantly".
The increase was part of the substantial tweaks to the Employment Act, which included extending labour law protection to workers paid up to RM4,000 monthly and cutting working hours to a maximum of nine hours a day.
ACCCIM said its survey showed the maternity leave increase topped concerns employers had about the impact on costs, with 44.9 per cent of respondents considering it to be the biggest factor versus other changes to the Act.
Overtime payment came in second with 42.9 per cent of respondents stating that the policy would have the biggest impact on their operating costs.
About a third of respondents felt the Act's extended coverage to more workers would have the highest impact on costs.
Only some 28 per cent of respondents felt the reduction in working hours would have the highest impact on their expenditure while up to 80 per cent said it would have some kind of impact.
The same percentage of respondents also felt the higher overtime threshold would bite at their operating costs.
The latest edition of the survey covered the July to December 2022 period, and also business outlook between January to June 2023 — gauging economic and business performance, factors affecting business and current issues confronting operations.
Questionnaires were distributed to nationwide direct and indirect memberships of 17 Constituent Chambers as well as 25 Associate Members, which comprise ethnic Chinese companies, individuals and trade associations here.