Money. Photo: Moyan Brenn, Attribution license, Creative Commons.
Photo: Moyan Brenn, Attribution license, Creative Commons.

International Women’s Day falls on March 8 every year, and it is a day where women all around the world are celebrated. However, with the celebration, the question of equality comes to mind. How does the pay gap between men and women play into gender equality, and what does the future look like for this gap? Here’s our cheat sheet:

What is the pay gap between Malaysian men and women?

Men are being paid more than women, even by holding the same job title, and this is even more apparent in desk jobs. According to the National Statistics Department’s Salaries and Wages Survey Report 2013, men were earning up to 8.4% more than women in the year 2013; with an average salary of RM2260, compared to RM2071.

Why is there a gap?

Gender discrimination is one of the core reasons for pay inequality around the world: a Indonesian 2010 Labor Force Survey showed that female workers’ monthly pay was 28.7% lower than their male counterparts solely due to gender discrimination.

Can the difference in salaries be explained by maternity leave?

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan has said that men are paid more because more years of experience, adding that women who become mothers tend to stop working, at least for a period of time, and this affects their salary. However, this explanation of the pay gap has been debunked as a myth by the World Economic Forum, which showed that even graduates face pay inequality.

It’s also worth noting that pregnant women also face discrimination in accessing work. In a landmark case in November 2014, a Malaysian woman won damages from the government after she was refused employment as a temporary teacher because she was pregnant.

How did Malaysian teachers achieve pay equality?

In the past, female teachers faced a disadvantage not just with their pay but also with their basic work entitlement. For instance, female teachers who got married would lose their permanent status as a teacher and would be regarded as a “permanent temporary staff”. The Women Teacher’s Union was formed in 1960 in order to fight for equal pay and rights between male and female staff, and pay equality for female teachers was finally achieved in the year 1964.

What is the pay gap for working adults worldwide?

Even in countries which have high overall “gender equality”, the wage gap can be significant. For example, Iceland is ranked by the World Economic Forum to be the best country for gender equality, but women’s pay is still only 74% of men’s pay for similar work.The same data shows that Singapore’s wage gap is even greater than Malaysia’s, with Singaporean women earning approximately 79% of what men earn, compared to 81% in Malaysia.

What does the future look like for the pay gap around the world?

Women will be earning an estimate of 41.2% less than their male counterparts by the year 2030, according to data collected from market intelligence firm Euromonitor. According to its data, Asia will be the only region in the world to experience worsening gender wage gap from now till 2030. The World Economic Forum has said that it will take 81 years to close the gender gap in the workplace.

What policies around the world are helping to close the pay gap?

Some countries enforce laws to promote fairness and equality towards women, including Iceland, Sweden, and Philippines. For instance, legislation passed by parliament in Iceland required companies to have at least 40% female directors by 2013. In Sweden, employees who take parental leave may not be harassed by their employer, or measures will be taken against the employer. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act is practiced in the Philippines, obligating employers to justify any distribution of less pay from one employee to another.

How does the Malaysia’s overall gender equality rank?

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 ranked Malaysia as the 107 out of 142 countries for gender equality, in a study that measures health, economics, education and politics. In the Southeast Asia region, Malaysia comes in at second last, behind Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei (Cambodia is the only country behind Malaysia, ranked 108). However, the same report showed that Malaysia has a high rate of tertiary education enrollment for women, with girls outnumbering boys by 1.2:1.

Anna Lee


Related: 12 Women Who Made Malaysia

The Women Who Made Malaysia