WAO: Budget 2021 is good but…

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) urged the Government to implement more measures to help women to re-enter workforce under Budget 2021.

In a statement, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) said unemployment among women have risen to 5.5% due to the pandemic, as opposed to males which stand at 4.7%.

“Additionally, more prime-aged workers dropped out of the labour force compared to anytime in the last five years. Many of them cite caregiving and family obligations for the decision.

“So, it is important for the Government to fine tune the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and other formal adult education systems to the needs of women who have left the labour force.

“We also hope to see measures to encourage men to play a more equal role in child care. We can start with, for example, at least seven days of paternity leave introduced,” said its executive director V Sumitra.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz tabled Budget 2021 at the Dewan Rakyat, worth RM322.54 bil.

The expansive budget was an addition to the six stimulus packages worth over RM300 bil announced this year, aimed at reviving the economy and push assistance towards those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sumitra said she welcomed the Government’s decision to allocate RM30 mil to build and upgrade childcare facilities across Malaysia, as it would be helpful for children.

She added the additional RM20 mil matching grant to encourage companies to set up childcare centres at their premises was also a plus point.

“The RM20 mil allocation for community centres to act as childcare after school hours sounds encouraging as well.

“But we noticed that some previously announced initiatives, including the [email protected] incentives for hiring women reentering the workforce, were not mentioned. This is a missed opportunity.

“As the pandemic has forced more women out of the labour force to care for their dependents, this group of women will find it hard to re-enter workforce, or will have to accept a diminished pay,” said Sumitra.

On the Government’s move to allow withdrawals from Employee’s Provident Fund’s (EPF) Account 1, she urged caution on it as the move may create a bigger problem in the future.

“Malaysia is already heading towards an ageing society and many don’t have enough savings in their EPF to sustain retirement.

“A survey by RinggitPlus found that despite risk of running out of money in the future, many Malaysians do not wish to tap into their EPF savings (directly or indirectly via the EPF’s i-Lestari platform or the reduced contribution rate).

“In the future, we could face a situation whereby a large number of senior citizens are financially dependent on the community,” she said.

Sumitra added that women traditionally have lower EPF savings and are more susceptible to old age poverty.

“Women in Malaysia are less likely to be engaged in full-time work, paid lesser and have longer life expectancy. Dipping into one’s EPF savings will further widen the gender pension savings gap,” she said. – Nov 7, 2020

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