As Penang EXCO, I applaud the recent announcement by Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, that the government will give income tax exemption for women returning from career breaks beginning next year. This is a booster for women who are considering returning to the workforce after taking a long break. This move also addresses the lack of the double peak in the female labour participation rate (FLPR) that Malaysia is experiencing. Our FLPR remains low compared with other countries in this region, and the reason for this low FLPR is mainly due to women dropping out from workforce due to childbearing and marriage commitments. Most women stopped working after having children due to lack of childcare facilities.
TalentCorp has been driving the Career Comeback initiative since 2015 where incentives are given to employers who hires women on career break for more than six (6) months into their company. Till date, 630 women has returned. So, this tax exemption is an added advantage to encourage women to return to work.
All of these are good initiatives, however, I think more efforts needs to be put into addressing the root cause. It has to address the strategic needs of creating an enabling environment and a support system for women to stay in work. More employers should be aware of the growing need for families to have parenthood and work life balance, and be encouraged to offer flexi hours, as well as childcare facilities. The lack of childcare facilities is one of the causing reason women dropout of the workforce. Women may not be attracted to return to workforce if their main needs are not met in the first place.
We need to take a holistic approach in addressing this issue to make it easier for parents to balance their career and family life, so that they can make the effort to share the responsibilities of raising their children and domestic chores.