Thursday, April 23, 2009


KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 (NNN-BERNAMA)-- Gender segregation has reared its ugly head in the Malaysian labour market, with about 77 per cent, or 2.7 million women, in under-valued and lowly paid occupations.

This was further reinforced as most men and a large population of women themselves support traditional division of labour and find differences in salaries justifiable. The National Seminar on Work, Income and Gender Equality which concluded here Wednesday, highlighted this.

The seminar also highlighted the issue of sexual harassment, which affected women in every workplace and at every level of employment, thus compromising women's safety and productivity.

The two-day seminar, organized by the Human Resources Ministry in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), was attended by participants from government, the private sector, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In order to rectify the situation, the seminar recommended a change in the mindset of society on stereotyping, and encouraging more men to be involved in sharing responsibilities through education.

It also recommended that the government introduce laws and regulations that encourage flexible working arrangements to accommodate women's roles and also make provision for a longer period of paid maternity leave.

The seminar noted that although there was a significant increase in the enrolment of women in institutions of higher learning in the country, the labour market, however, rated graduate women low in terms of remuneration.

It also noted there was a sizeable talent pool among women that remained untapped because of inadequate maternity leave, rigid and non-conducive regulations, adverse stereotying of women's role by society and lack of support from men in shouldering the responsibilities of caring for children and elderly.

The seminar recommended that the Employment Act 1955, be extended to include all working women. Currently, it does not cover domestic workers and those earning more than 1,500 Ringgit (one USD = about RM3.6) per month.

As a social responsibility, the seminar also recommended that the government devise strategies to encourage employers to cater for the disabled. It also wanted existing guidelines and employment contract for contract workers to be made more effective with a proper enforcement mechanism.

It also emphasized that the government should draw up strict regulations for recruiters and employers to avoid exploitation and abuse of maids. -- NNN-BERNAMA