Govt must address unpaid care work, workplace flexibility after MCO, says NGO

Petaling Jaya. 30 April 2020- The government should take more steps to promote gender equality and change employment practices after the movement control order (MCO) period, says the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO). Labour Day should be seen as an opportune moment to reflect on the different working realities for men and women in the country, said the non-government organisation (NGO).

“Care labour, especially informal care work, has traditionally been undervalued as a fundamental service for the productive economy. “It is high time that the government, alongside the wider society, revalues and redistributes care labour that’s disproportionately carried out by women in Malaysia,” said WAO in a statement.

WAO wants the government to look into the issue of unpaid care work as the current stimulus package makes no provision for these groups. “To redress this, we call for more provision for care grants and cash transfers, specifically to caregivers, in subsequent Prihatin stimulus packages,” said WAO.

Citing a survey conducted by TalentCorp in 2018, the group said the implementation of actual flexible work arrangements had fallen short. “Only 48% of Malaysian firms offer the option of ‘flexi hours’, only 34% offer the possibility of leaving early from work and, dismally, only 16% offer a work-from-home choice.

“This is in stark contrast to the 60% of European workers who can easily take one or two hours off each working day to attend to personal matters,” said WAO. “In 2019, there were some proposals to ensure this right for workers through amendments to the Employment Act.

While working towards these legislative amendments, the government should play an active role in shaping social dialogue between firms and employees in regulating work hours as a short-term, immediate measure during the crisis,” it said. The NGO also called for more family-friendly facilities and benefits that could improve a working parent’s ability to balance work and family commitment.

The government should also step up support for early childhood care and education (ECCE) providers after the resumption of normal operations in the post-MCO period, it said. “A viable EEC sector is essential for a strong post-Covid-19 recovery, as robust employment growth after the economic crisis is possible only if the working-age population is not saddled with unpaid care duties,” it added.

-The Star