Care sector yields significant returns

by BERNAMA/ pic by AFP

HIGHER investment in the care sector could yield significant returns, including an increase in women labour force participation to 63% within five years, said Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) yesterday.

In its latest report, the research house noted that higher investment in the care sector could create over 16,000 jobs in the childcare industry and higher real GDP growth as much as 0.4% annually.

KRI research associate Nazihah Muhamad Noor said in terms of labour participation, it could grow by 1.6 percentage point.

“These are a very conservative estimate as we are assuming only 10% of women that are not working taking part in this programme,” she told reporters after presenting the report titled “Time to Care: Gender Inequality, Unpaid Care Work and Time Use Survey”.

Care work refers to occupations that provide services that help people develop their capabilities or the ability to pursue the aspects of their lives that they value such as childcare.

Meanwhile, deputy director of research Christopher Choong Weng Wai said unpaid care work widened inequalities in the labour market as it had an outsized role in women’s decision to stay out of the workforce.

The report noted, due to the current measures of poverty and inequality did not account for unpaid care, it might not capture the full reality of household living standards.

“We need to seriously think about having a time use survey (TUS) as part of our national statistical apparatus if we want to advance gender equality and address the care burden,” he added.

KRI’s TUS confirmed that women face a double burden as they shoulder more responsibility for unpaid care work than men despite working a similar number of hours of paid work.

The burden extends across multiple fronts as women often have to multitask as they provide care, all the while being less mobile than men.

Most formal childcare centres in Malaysia are not operating at full capacity, according to the report, adding that the services may be inaccessible and unaffordable in some places.

The report pointed out that some households in Kuala Lumpur spent 15% of their income on childcare.

The report stressed that care work should be viewed as a source of economic growth in its own right and not only to improve women employment but also to create new employment, opportunities within the sector itself.

Government subsidies and cash transfer programmes can be introduced to stimulate demand for formal childcare, as well as enacting labour policies that encourage mothers and fathers to share care responsibilities.

Child-minding standards for informal and unregistered childcare providers can also be improved through incentivising training and registration.