PETALING JAYA: The gender gap at the workplace is narrowing as a study revealed that the participation of women in the labour force has increased to 53.5%.
This means that slightly more than half of women of working age are in the workforce.
The Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) study titled “The State of Households 2018” found that from 2010 to 2017, women’s labour force participation (LFPR) increased by 8%.
It was estimated that about one-third of the increase in women’s labour force in the period was due to a rise in self-employment.
The jump in women’s LFPR in this seven-year period is about nine times more than the 0.9% increase recorded in the 1995-2010 period.
Men’s LFPR “remained somewhat stable”, according to the report, at a rate of 77.7% in 2016.
Within the past two decades, the gender gap in LFPR has narrowed from 38.9% in 1995 to 24.2% in 2017.
“Underlying this progress is a long-term downward trend in participation rates for men, and a corresponding upward trend for women,” the report said.
However, the KRI study noted that the gender gap in the LFPR is still relatively large compared to other countries.
Compared to Malaysia’s gap of 24.2%, countries such as the United States, Japan and Brazil recorded an LFPR gap of 12.5%, 20%, and 21.5% respectively.
This is despite the fact that men and women make up roughly equal proportions of the working-age population, with 9.5 million women and 9.8 million men who are within working age.
The report showed that LFPR for men in peak earning years (ages 25 to 54) is close to 100%, while women’s LFPR peaks at only 75.2% from ages 25-29, declining gradually for subsequent age groups.
About 2.6 million women, mostly educated and of prime working age, are not part of the workforce because of household obligations, the study found.
The report said raising women’s employment by 30% would boost Malaysia’s GDP by about 7% to 12%.
Empowering female workers would also “serve as a potential remedy for an ageing population by alleviating the burden of labour force participants providing to the rest of the population by around 30%”, the report said.
This was provided the gender gap was closed within the next 12 years, the report added.