Gender Roles in Malaysia’s Culture

It must be noted that during the 1940s, when there were street demonstrations, women were significantly involved. Today, Malaysia has slightly more than 32 million people. Among them:

  • About 17 million of them are male
  • 15 million of them are women
  • This puts Malaysia’s population at about 107:100 males and females according to the latest numbers (Q1, 2019).
  • The majority of the total population in Malaysia are citizens with about 10% being non-citizens.

Problem with stereotyping

Perhaps one of the biggest issues with gender roles in Malaysia is stereotyping. Malaysia is among the fastest developing countries in the world today. Despite that, women are still perceived as homemakers in many areas. To date:

  • 62% of Malaysian are Bumiputera consisting of Malays and indigenous people
  • 20% are Chinese
  • 6% are Indians.

In the Asian culture, it is common that there is still very high regard for men as the breadwinner and head of the family. This is not expected to change in the near future.

Women in the workforce

In the last decade or so, women in the workforce have increased significantly. As it stands, the LFPR or Labour Force Participation Rate for men in Malaysia is about 81% while women are only at 55.8% which is among the lowest in the region. Because of this, the Malaysian government has been working towards increasing LFPR among women in Malaysia. This includes the recent initiative outlined in the [email protected] programme, which was designed to encourage women to return to the workforce. One of the highlights of this programme was to push for 90-day maternity leave so as to allow women to be better ready after giving birth.

Trends and Practices

It is a very common practice for Malaysian women to stop working once they have given birth. This is mostly due to the difficulties in juggling and balancing between taking care of the child and moving up the corporate ladder. Such situations have changed the mindset of gender in the markets where women now:

  • Thinks twice before deciding to have a child. This could mean giving up (or compromising) the career which she has set in the first place.
  • Decides to stay home and take care of the newborn while working from home (in alternative industries) while the husband continues working.
  • Decides against getting married if she does not intend to have a child.

Such a scenario will significantly change how gender roles are being perceived and will influence all the markets and industries in the near future.




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