Coming soon: The year of the women

The Malaysian government in its 2018 budget has declared the year as the women empowerment year. Below is an overview of the steps it has announced.

  1. Women must occupy 30% on the Boards of Directors of the government linked companies.
  2. Private sector employers to increase their mandatory maternity leave from 60 to 90 days.
  3. Government has proposed a 12 month income tax exemption for women who re-enter the workforce after a break of at least 2 years.
  4. All new office buildings are mandated to have accessible child care at work.
  5. Malaysian government has allocated RM 20 million (apprx. Rs. 32.3 cr. In INR) for women to attend training and entrepreneurship programs.


When I was reading an article on this, I couldn’t help but feel impressed. The above measures are by no means small. They are clearly chalked out to show visible changes and within a short time frame of 2-3 years. My mind immediately started juxtaposing the situation to India.

The idea is not to get into any sort of feminist or women’s lib spiel. But truth be told, for women to continue in work force and remain gainfully employed after motherhood, aren’t there more detractors in our country?

Well to be fair, I decided to not go by my prejudices and look up a bit. The government in its 5 year plans right from the first one, has earmarked initiatives for women’s economic and social welfare. For example, During the 7th plan period, the Indian Parliament adopted a ‘National Policy on Education 1986’ which included a chapter on Education for women’s equality.

A national perspective plan for women was brought out by Ministry of HRD between 1988 to 2000. There have been schemes like Swashakti, Swayamsidha from time to time in various policy decisions, which would have definitely contributed to women’s cause.

To add, here are some top stats on the website of Ministry of Labour and Employment.

  • As per Census 2011, the total number of female workers in India is 149.8 million and female workers in rural and urban areas are 121.8 and 28.0 million respectively.
  • As per the last Employment Review by Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGE&T), on 31st March, 2011, about 59.54 lakh women workers were employed in the organised sector (Public and Private Sector).

Coming across such measures by government was, I can say, quite heartening. Still a question haunts me, what are the big benefactors for women in workforce in our country?

I tried hard to remember. Sure, I could think of one -The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill in 2016 was said to benefit 1.8 million women. The Bill took India to the third position in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks, respectively – a move of a similar calibre to that announced by Malaysian government.

Yes, we definitely need more of those. And then will dawn on us THE YEAR OF THE WOMEN.