World News

World News Day: Recognising the invisible work done by women

What if all the unpaid work we could do at home? This includes taking care, cleaning, taking care of baby, cooking etc.

While some may argue that this is part and parcel of our daily lives, the problem arises when it is overwhelmingly one gender that ends up doing most of this unpaid work.

This is especially problematic when unpaid work prevents women (who shoulder most of it) from participating in the workforce or paid labor.

According to the Malaysian Department of Statistics, women make up only 38.8 percent of the workforce; 61.2 percent of men.

This is not matched by almost equal enrollment of boys and girls in higher education institutions.

According to 2018 World Bank data, 60 percent of Malaysian women who left the workforce cited childcare and housework as the main reasons.

The Malaysian Employers Federation’s Man-Days Lost and Absenteeism Survey 2019 showed that only 4 percent of 140 respondent companies provided or set up childcare centers in the workplace, with only 1 percent offering childcare subsidies or allowances.

“Family responsibilities” was the most common reason given by employees for absence from work, at 94.2 percent.

The truth is that even though we don’t pay mothers or fathers wages to take care of their own children or clean the house or care for the elderly, these jobs have a huge impact on our economy and society. This is an unresolved issue that needs attention.

We asked The Star readers what they thought about the value of unpaid work at home, in our survey The Worth of Unpaid Work, and the results showed that the majority of the 648 respondents – especially women – thought that these jobs should be financially valued.

In fact, 82 percent of female respondents think they should be paid for work done at home, while 18 percent disagree. 57 percent of male respondents agree that they should be paid for work done at home, while nearly half (43 percent) disagree.

How much time do we spend on this task every day? The largest proportion of female respondents (37.5 percent) said they spend two to five hours daily on unpaid work.

Among male respondents, 35.2 percent said they spend one to two hours a day doing these tasks.

This division of housework is in line with global findings: the International Labor Organization reports that women do four times more unpaid work than men.

Survey respondents were full-time workers, part-time or freelancers, retired or unemployed, students and those who were self-employed.


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