KUALA LUMPUR, September 27, 2019 – Malaysia’s income per capita could grow by 26.2 percent – implying an average annual income gain of RM 9,400 (US$2,250) if all economic barriers are removed for women in Malaysia, according to Breaking Barriers: Toward Better Economic Opportunities for Women in Malaysia, a World Bank report launched today.
Malaysian girls perform better than boys in school, making up 55 percent of graduates in higher education institutions. Enrollment has also increased for girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM subjects. Girls account for 67 percent of students studying science and mathematics, and 40 percent and 34 percent in ICT and engineering respectively.
Enabling participation of women in higher-paying jobs in the labor market could accelerate the country’s development goals, but challenges remain in providing women equal access to economic opportunities.
Malaysia’s female labor force participation rate, the proportion of women who participate in work, remains low when compared to ASEAN countries, despite increasing from 46.4 percent in 2009 to 55.2 percent in 2018. Women comprised 39% of the total Malaysian labor force, with men representing the other 61%.
“As Malaysia continues on its path towards becoming a high-income and developed nation, promoting economic opportunities for women is one of the most promising avenues that can help achieve the nation’s goals, on top of improving women’s wellbeing,” said YAB Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. “We look forward to strengthening collaborations with the World Bank Group to create a conducive environment that facilitates economic opportunities for women in the country.”
The report identifies a lack of accessible and affordable child and elderly care services as one of the main constraints that prevents women from accessing productive jobs. Towards this end, the report recommends expanding the availability, quality and affordability of child and elderly care services. This can be done by increasing child care coverage from 0–6 years to 0–17 years and prioritizing resources on child and elderly care for the bottom 40 percent, especially the urban poor.
The report also recommends broadening support for parents in line with international legal norms, by reforming the Employment Act and other laws and regulations, including prohibiting the dismissal of pregnant women, requiring 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and introducing paid paternity or parental leave.
“We are happy to see that women’s economic empowerment is a key priority for the Malaysian Government,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Malaysia. “Around the world, the increasing participation of women in the labor force is driving growth. Malaysia too can unlock the potential of its female labor force and translate it into economic gains.”
This publication, produced by the World Bank Group Global Knowledge and Research Hub, is part of its Malaysia Development Experience Series, which aims to capture key lessons from Malaysia’s own development experience for the benefit of for developing countries around the globe as they transition into higher levels of national income and shared prosperity.