Partners sharing equal household responsibilities can empower more working women — Noor Asmaliza Romlee

APRIL 1 — The female labour force participation rate in Malaysia is 56 per cent as compared to the male labour force participation rate which is up to 81 per cent. Malaysia has the third-lowest female labour force participation rate — just slightly higher than Indonesia and Philippines, but much lower than Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to responses to the Malaysian Labour Force Survey in 2018, 60.2 per cent of women who did not participate in the labour force cited housework, including child and elderly care as the main reason for not seeking work.

Hence, it is vital to address the social norms where the responsibility of caring for a family member or raising a family is left solely on the woman. Our community need to encourage a more balanced relationship and 50/50 partnership in a household. Husbands and wives need to share housework and childcare equally especially when both are employed full time.

Macroeconomic simulation imply that closing gaps between men's and women's economic opportunities could boost Malaysia's income per capita by 26.2 per cent — an average annual income gain of RM9,400 for every Malaysian.

For professional working women, we care about our work with or without make up on cause it doesn’t matter. What matter is the quality of our work while we juggle between paid and unpaid work (domestic chores).

In addition, we need to be more sensitive towards female workers who were affected during MCO. What about the daily wage female workers in low cost flats, female migrant workers or refugees who are living in cramped quarters, who are not getting a salary during MCO, who may not have enough ingredients or facilities to cook?

What use of a piece of advice to wear make up and sound like a Doraemon to their husbands when all they are thinking is about their SURVIVAL. Not to mention that makeup can be a significant cost for women, especially those on the lower end of the earning scale. We have to be more sensitive towards these affected groups of working women too.

A World Bank study in September 2019, concluded that our country’s income per capita can grow by 26.2 per cent if all barriers against Malaysian women are removed and women’s participation in our economy is increased.

Pressuring women to wear make even when we are working from home, not speaking out her rights and to sound lady-like or cartoon-like to her husband is unnecessary pressure and do not empower women in the current workforce.

Instead, we should focus on policies and programmes to increase women's labour force participation such as job placements, development programmes and career comeback programme for professionals. In addition, given the large share of working women in Malaysia are micro-entreprenuers or hold other informal jobs, improving social protection and skills training for informal workers is crucial.

Let's not build a barrier in increasing the number of women in the workforce for the socioeconomic development and growth of the country (which could potentially increase Malaysia’s GDP between RM6 billion to RM9 billion).

Finally a public discussion should be encouraged about the social norms and values underlying the widespread gender disparities in the workforce.

It is about time we publicly showcase modern male role models from different ethinicities and religion who are ready to share family responsibilities, as well as modern female role models who show that it is possible to have both a family and a career.

* Noor Asmaliza Romlee is a professional woman who does not wear her make up while working from home.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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