Malaysian women accounted for 68% of public university enrollments in the 2013/2014 academic year.
Yet, despite a highly-educated female population, only 53.6% of working age women (15 – 64) remain in the workforce – compare this to our neighbors; 78.6% in Vietnam, 70.8% in Thailand, 65.1% in Singapore, 53.4% in Indonesia and you can see that we are seriously trailing behind.
Turning this trend around and keeping women in the workforce is essential to the economic growth of the country, however, it’s not going to be an easy one.
Women are significantly more likely to succumb to the ‘Double Burden Syndrome’ than men.
In marriages where both partners have paid jobs, women spend significantly more time running the home, raising children, supporting older family members or caring for the sick and this extra ‘burden’ makes it incredibly difficult for them to rejoin the workforce.
According to a survey by ACCA in collaboration with Talentcorp in late 2012, as many as 93% women who left the workforce considered coming back to work, but 63% find it difficult to do so.
In order to get these highly-educated members of society back into the workplace, employers MUST be prepared to consider making some changes.
Here’s three that might work for you.
Flexible work practices are those which vary from the traditional Monday to Friday, nine to five work pattern. They provide employees with an opportunity to balance their work responsibilities and important life commitments.
By providing flexible work practices you can create an environment that incorporates choice, versatility and understanding. This means employees can be productive while still being able to meet responsibilities outside of work.
Bringing up a child or caring for an elderly relative does not come with a fixed schedule and neither should an employee’s working environment.
If you can offer flexible work practices, you’ll gain increased productivity and worker satisfaction, along with decreased absenteeism and turnover.
Crèche / Nurseries
A survey conducted by Bright Horizons, a leading provider of employer-sponsored childcare in the US, found that a whopping 91% of women said access to an on-site facility would be important in their decision to come back to work after maternity leave.
However in Malaysia there is a huge void in designated parking spaces for pregnant women, let alone child care facilities for working mothers! Granted, it’s difficult for a business to provide child care in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
During the 10th Malaysia Plan, Prime Minister Najib Razak offered tax incentives to companies that establish nurseries and allow for flexible work arrangements. For big companies, it’s often just a case of realizing that there is a need, then allocating the space and bringing in a third party operator.
For small companies, why not consider clubbing together with other local businesses to spread the cost. Done right, you might even turn a profit!
Section 37 of the Employment Act 1955 states that every female employee is entitled to maternity leave period of not less than 60 consecutive days per confinement period (90 days in Thailand, 120 days in Singapore and 180 days in Vietnam).
The key point here is ‘Not Less’ – 60 days is the minimum legal requirement it does not have to be the status quo. There’s nothing to say that as an employer you can not provide more time off.
In the short term that might not seem to be financially viable, but research suggests that increasing maternity leave up to 120 days improves the mental and physical health of mothers which helps to reduce the amount of time of they take in the future.
Also, more time off after a birth can encourage the mother to breastfeed longer, which has been proven to increase a baby’s immune system, which again in turn will reduce the chances of absenteeism in the first two years to care for a poorly baby.
In order to retain women in the workforce, we must be prepared to make changes. These changes may hurt financially at first, but in the long run they will work out for the better.
“The world is evolving. Our neighbors are evolving, and in order to survive, so must we.”
At i-HR Consulting, over 75% of our employees are women and I can honestly say I would rather give each and everyone of them an extra 60 days maternity leave, than risk not having them return to work after a pregnancy.
As a professional human resource outsourcing company, we provide essential HR advisory and consulting services to companies throughout Southeast Asia.
If you would like to know more about our services and how we can help to guide and improve your human resource needs, please feel free to give me a call on 01825 88168 (Mr Rob Waller, COO, i-HR Consulting Sdn. Bhd).
More information on the Malaysian Maternity Act can be found on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) website here: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/48055/66265/E55mys01.htm
This article is courtesy of i-HR Consulting Sdn Bhd, a strategic HR partner for WomenBizSENSE. For questions or other HR issues, contact Mr Rob Waller at 01825 88168.