KUALA LUMPUR, 22 April 2009: Gender segregation has reared its ugly head in the local labour market, with about 77% 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 today, highlighted this aspect.
The seminar also highlighted the issue of sexual harassment which affected women in every work place and at every level of employment, thus compromising on women’s safety and productivity.
The two-day seminar organised by the human resources ministry in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation, was attended by 50 participants from the government, private sector, trade unions and non-governmental organisations.
To rectify the situation, the seminar recommended a need for 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 encouraged flexible working arrangements to accommodate women’s roles and also make provision for 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 stereotyping of women’s role by society and lack of support from men in shouldering the responsibilities of caring for the children and elderly.
The seminar recommended that the Employment Act 1955, be extended to include all working women. Currently, it did not cover domestic workers and those earning more than RM1,500 per month.
As social responsibility, the seminar also recommended that the government devise strategies to encourage employers to cater for the disabled.
On domestic workers, the seminar wanted existing guidelines and employment contract for this category to be made more effective with proper enforcement mechanism.
It also emphasised that the government draw up strict regulations for recruiters and employers to avoid exploitation and abuse of maids. — Bernama