THE Malaysian Employers Federation wants more women in the workforce.
But national policies that support women returning after a career break and encourage employers to employ them must first be in place, its executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan points out.
A holistic review of our labour laws to suit today’s work environment is also needed as greater flexibility is crucial for career women, he adds.
Flexible work arrangements must be introduced to improve work-life balance. At the same time, however, employers are worried about maintaining a high level of productivity, he says.
The federation, Shamsuddin says, has proposed that the Government introduce annualised work hours and a time bank like in Sweden.
A time bank lets workers manage the requisite number of work hours in a year to suit their needs. The annualised working hour concept gives companies better control of their resources while also allowing workers more flexibility. This, he feels, is especially beneficial for women.
Generally, women enter the labour force upon graduation. At about age 30, they get married and leave to start a family. In countries such as Japan and South Korea, women who stop working when they have children re-enter the workforce in their 40s. But here, very few women go back to work.
Since women tend to leave the workforce in their 30s, they would not have had much time to climb the corporate ladder. This could account for why very few women occupy managerial positions.
“Candidates for management positions are picked based on qualifications, experience and trustworthiness.
“Men seldom take career breaks and have attained the necessary years of experience and skill required to perform the job. Women normally take career breaks to look after their children or aged parents,” Shamsuddin notes.
Having integrated community childcare and daycare centres for the elderly will go a long way in retaining women in the workforce without them needing to take a career break. This in turn, would give women more opportunities to take up leadership roles.
“But for such centres to work, they must offer quality care at reasonable fees.”
International experience, says Talent Corporation Malaysia’s (TalentCorp) chief executive officer Shareen Shariza Datuk Abdul Ghani, prove that flexible work arrangements (FWA) are effective in retaining talent. Yet here in Malaysia, only a minority practise basic forms of FWA such as staggered hours, she laments.
“Facilities like childcare encourage women to come back to the workforce. If companies look solely at the bottomline, they’re missing out on what women can offer.
“It’s more qualitative than quantitative. Many companies have done really well in engaging and retaining women talent just by providing childcare facilities.”
FWA, she argues, represent the future of how work is done and what the workforce of the future expects.
Over 75% of global businesses recognise that FWA have had positive effects on staff and productivity.
“For organisations to move forward, it’s crucial to adapt to changes, especially where technology allows communication via conference call, Skype and Whatsapp. Employers must move with these advancements and leverage on technology to attract and retain talent.”