Malaysia’s Leap in Gender Equality: World Bank’s 2024 Report Highlights

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In a significant stride towards gender equality, Malaysia has been recognized for its concerted efforts in enacting legal reforms that promote equal rights for women. According to the World Bank’s 2024 “Women, Business and Law” report, Malaysia, along with Jordan, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uzbekistan, ranks among the top five nations that have shown remarkable improvement in ensuring legal gender equality. This acknowledgment shines a light on Malaysia’s dedication to dismantling the barriers women face, both in the workplace and society at large.

Despite this progress, Malaysia’s overall score of 60.6 on the index—though a notable 10-point increase from the previous year—lags behind its regional counterparts, including Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Singapore. The report emphasizes the global disparity in workforce participation rates between men and women, with barely half of women globally engaged in the workforce compared to nearly three out of every four men. Tea Trumbic, the report’s lead author, criticized this imbalance as not only unfair but also economically wasteful, highlighting the folly of sidelining half the population.

Among the commendable reforms Malaysia has implemented are those ensuring equal pay for equal work and lifting restrictions that previously barred women from engaging in industrial or potentially hazardous jobs. Additionally, Malaysia has been lauded for its steps toward expanding maternity and paternity benefits, aligning its legislation with international labor standards, including several International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. These reforms, encapsulated in the Employment (Amendment) Act 2022, notably extend paid maternity leave to 98 days and introduce seven days of paid paternity leave, alongside other progressive measures.


However, the report also draws attention to the persistent inequalities that women face across the globe, with Malaysia’s effectiveness in law implementation scoring only 47.5 points. This gap underscores the ongoing challenge of translating legal frameworks into tangible outcomes that empower women equally. The World Bank’s study, assessing 190 countries, reveals a “shocking” disparity between policy and practice, indicating a widespread need for improvement in enforcing laws that protect women’s economic inclusion.

The potential economic impact of eradicating discriminatory laws and practices is staggering. The World Bank estimates that ending these disparities could boost the global GDP by over 20 percent, effectively doubling the rate of global growth over the next decade. Such findings underscore the urgent need for continued progress in legal and societal reforms that support gender equality.

As the World Bank’s report shows, while no country has yet achieved true equal opportunity, the advancements made by nations like Malaysia offer a beacon of hope and a call to action. It’s a reminder that progress is possible and that concerted efforts can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable world.

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