In 2018, govt data shows Malaysian women still earned less than men

Danial Dzulkifly
The Department of Statistics’ Salaries & Wages Survey Report Malaysia 2018 showed male employees earned a median salary of RM2,342 a month while women made RM2,227. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Malaysian women workers continued to draw a lower salary compared to their male counterparts in the same job, according to data from the Department of Statistics.

Its Salaries & Wages Survey Report Malaysia 2018 showed male employees earned a median salary of RM2,342 a month while women made RM2,227, a gap of RM115 monthly, The Sunday Star reported today.

The gap was most pronounced among workers in craft and related trades, which saw men earning almost 35 per cent higher.

Next was services and sales workers (28.5 per cent), elementary occupations (27.3 per cent), plant and machine operators and assemblers (25.4 per cent), managers (20.3 per cent), and professionals (15 per cent), among other sectors.

The gap is not indicative of the lack of skills or ability of women, judging from a World Bank report titled “Breaking Barriers: Toward Better Opportunities for Women in Malaysia”, which found that on average, women have higher academic qualifications and show more actual learning compared to men.

The newspaper also cited Women’s Aid Organisation’s advocacy and communications officer Tan Heang-Lee as saying that the discrimination in lower pay for women could be compounded by their performance appraisal and opportunities, especially after motherhood.

“Women are also less likely to negotiate for pay raises — and those who do so may be perceived as pushy,” she was quoted as saying.

Tan reportedly cited a US study by Cornell University that found a perception bias of women: mothers are seen to be less competent and committed than women without children, even when they have similar credentials.

In contrast, fathers are perceived to be more committed than men without children.

To address the issue, Tan urged employers to review their performance appraisal criteria to mitigate gender bias and ensuring a fair assessment of all employees.

She also said that women tend to take “caring professions” such as nursing and teaching, which are normally underpaid.

“To address occupational segregation, we must challenge gender stereotypes and expand the range of career options available to women and girls. We must also remove barriers that hinder women and girls from pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated fields,’’ she was quoted as saying.

Tan suggested Putrajaya emulate the United Kingdom’s policy where companies are required to report the average wage of men and women employees, the proportion of men and women employees in different salary brackets, and the proportion of men and women employees who receive bonuses.

She also suggested including a provision stating "equal pay for work of equal value" in the Employment Act for transparency and to create awareness among the genders of how much their salaries differ for the same jobs.

However, comparing raw earnings is not a fair indicator of the actual pay gap in Malaysia, according to World Bank Senior Economist Achim Schmillen.

He added that for a more comprehensive figure on the gender pay gap, variable factors such as differences in education should also be considered as women with degrees earn higher than men without them.

“This illustrates that the overall gap only appears small because it does not appropriately account for differences in women’s and men’s productive characteristics.

“Women in Malaysia tend to be much better educated than men. At the degree level almost 60 per cent of graduates in 2017 were women. According to World Bank estimates, given the differences in education (and other productive characteristics) between men and women, men should on average earn 13.8 per cent less than women,” he was quoted as saying.

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