Wage floors must be set in APEC economies to protect women

To encourage more women within the Asia-Pacific region to participate in the workplace, wages have to remain competitive enough.
By: | May 21, 2024

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies must collectively establish a wage floor to prevent extreme wage suppression, which disproportionately harms women, said Liew Chin Tong, Malaysia’s Deputy Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister.

Liew shared this at the recent APEC Joint Meeting of Ministers for Women and Ministers Responsible for Trade in Peru and emphasised the importance of increasing women’s participation in the workforce as a global positive force.

“Globally, more women in the workforce are essential for ensuring higher combined family incomes, leading to increased domestic consumption in our societies,” said Liew. “To facilitate more female workforce participation, we need a strong care economy.”

This means, Liew said, there is a need to have better resources for childcare and aged care.

Female labour participation rate in Malaysia stands at 56% compared to 82.9% for men, lower than many South-East Asian economies. In comparison, women in the civil service constitute 58% of the civil service, with 42% of the population who make decisions in the civil service (Jusa/super scale C and above) being women, considered very high among developing countries. The country has also mandated that 30% of public-listed board members be women from 2023 onwards, with high compliance rates.

Liew attributed the lack of women’s participation in the workforce to Malaysia’s long-term dependence on unskilled and cheap foreign labour over the past 25 years, leading to wage suppression and a lack of business interest in hiring women. Other reasons cited included insufficient public provision of childcare, aged care, and other infrastructure to support women’s workforce participation.

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To resolve this, Liew said that more skilled employees will be needed, and higher wages will attract more women into the formal workforce, as a tight labour market would encourage employers to make it more attractive for women to join the workforce, reported Malay Mail.