Malaysia: balancing paid and unpaid work
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In Malaysia, the challenges faced by working women differ according to social class and ethnicity. Social class strongly regulates women's access to professional employment, and ethnic background often determines women's employment prospects, in both the private and public sector. However, all Malaysian women are affected by deep-seated political and cultural beliefs regarding the respective contributions of men and women to the social and economic order. For Muslim Malays, the belief is that men and women are equal but different and as such they are encouraged to play complementary gender roles in society (Karim 1995). Within this division of labour, women are first and foremost responsible for reproductive labour. In Chinese and Indian Malaysian cultures, although different, patriarchy, hierarchy and age are important; men are usually heads of the family and women enjoy a relatively high status as mothers and grandmothers. Underpinned by a relationship of kinship, both young and elderly women reciprocate in childcare and aged care in the home (Karim 1995, 39-40).