The participation of women in the labour force has been increasing since 1957,they are engaged in paid employment or are employers, self-employed and unpaid family workers in all economic sectors. Overall, female employment accounted for 34.7% of total employment in 2000 as compared to only 24.5% in 1957. An analysis of female employment by occupational category also shows a rising trend of women moving into occupations that require post-secondary education. However, the majority of women are concentrated in low-skilled and low-waged occupations. They are under-represented in top managerial and decision-making posts in both the public and private sectors. Gender-specific issues that continue to hinder the progress of women in the economy include traditional gender constructs, sex role stereotyping and gender division of work, multiple roles of women, gender segmentation and stratification, and gender discrimination at work. To address these issues, more concrete steps will have to be taken so that women’s involvement in the labour market and corporate world can be more significant and meaningful.
In Malaysia today, women can be seen actively working alongside their male counterparts, in offices as diverse as that of the nation’s policy-makers to the municipality and district public administration. Acknowledgement of women’s capabilities and competencies by the Government of Malaysia has led to the appointment of women ministers as well as administrators joining the top echelons of the civil service. Furthermore, successful and enterprising rural women have been accorded recognition with the “Successful Woman Farmer” and “Successful Woman Entrepreneur” awards since the 1980s. Among other factors, appropriate government policies and cultural and tolerance have facilitated the participation of women in the nation’s economy.
II.LEGAL STATUS OF WOMEN
Women’s legal status with regard to citizenship, education,employment, legal rights and status in marriage, divorce,and the guardianship of children are embodied in the Federal Constitution as well as in other legislation which have been enacted from time to time. New laws have been enacted while existing laws and legislation are continuously being reviewed and amended to preserve, reinforce and protect the rights of women. The adoption of the Women and Girls’ Protection Act 1973 and its 1987 amendments, the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 in 1996, and the introduction of the Code of Practice on the Prevention and Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace are examples of legislative measures targeted at protecting the dignity of women. Amendments to other pertinent acts and laws such as the Employment Act 1955 and the improved provisions of the Income Tax Act 1967 are aimed at safeguarding the economic interests of women.
Women under the Federal Constitution
Malaysian women’s rights as citizens to participate in the political and administrative life of the nation are implicitly recognised and guaranteed by the Federal Constitution,which states under Article 8, clause 1,that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Clause 2 further provides that “except as expressly authorised by this Constitution,there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of any property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession , vocation ,or employment”. This clause does not contain a specific provision against gender-based discrimination and may allow for protective discrimination against women under the Employment Act. The omission was rectified on 2 August 2001, when the Dewan Rakyat approved an amendment to Article...