Malaysia’s women graduates close gender jobless gap amid virus

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) – Malaysia’s female graduates have narrowed the unemployment rate gap with men for a third straight year, yet major differences remain for jobs requiring higher level degrees.

The overall jobless rate for 2.476 million women graduates in the country declined to 4.3 per cent in 2021, versus 4 per cent for men.

That is a huge improvement from 2018, when female employment was a full percentage point lower than males.

Still, much of the shrinkage has been based on lower level diploma jobs, according to data released by the Department of Statistics.

Female degree holders, who typically pass higher entry requirements and complete more course work than diploma holders, registered a jobless rate of almost 5 per cent in 2021, nearly 2 percentage points higher than their male counterparts.

The reverse was true for female diploma holders, who saw a 3.5 per cent jobless rate last year, compared to male unemployment at 5 per cent.

Malaysia’s overall unemployment rate dipped to 3.9 per cent in May, according to the latest figures, thanks to an increase in economic activity after reopening of international borders in April.

The rate has fallen below 4 per cent for the first time since the pandemic struck in early 2020, and is comparable to 3.8 per cent in the UK and 3.5 per cent in Australia.

The country has also moved to encourage women to enter the workforce. Female labour force participation grew to 83 per cent in 2021, with men dropping to 87 per cent from more than 88 per cent previously.