Last Monday (25 July), the Housewives’ Social Security Bill 2022 (SKSSR) which offers voluntary insurance protection to Malaysian housewives, was passed by a voice vote in the Dewan Rakyat.
Under the Bill, housewives who contribute to the scheme are entitled to medical benefits, permanent disability benefits, regular attendance allowance, survivor’s pension and funeral benefits.
Despite the intention of the Bill was good, several women’s rights groups have called for the government to review the “presumed work value” of a housewife, which is estimated at RM600 a month.
Speaking to FMT, Jernell Tan of the All Women’s Action Society reviewed that she had told the human resources ministry to explain how it arrived at such a meagre estimate.
“Being a housewife is a 24/7 vocation. This estimate is not just inappropriate. It is an abomination,” she said, adding that the government should carry out a study to get a better picture of the contribution of housework to the national gross domestic product (GDP).
She then suggested the government refer to a study that was done in Vietnam, where an anti-poverty group called ‘ActionAid’ found that unpaid care work, which includes housework, contributed to more than 20% of the country’s GDP in 2015.
Meanwhile, Engender Consultancy founder Omna Sreeni-Ong also urged the statistics department to carry out a comprehensive time-use survey to understand the realities faced by housewives.
“Beyond domestic chores and caregiving, a stay-at-home parent is tasked with driving, grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, attending children’s school activities and caring for elders at home,” she said.
“All these tasks, if calculated, would be many times more than what is valued in the bill, which is RM20 per day.”
On the other hand, Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das said that domestic work is usually seen in terms of social value and that a survey was crucial if the government intended to put “a number on it”.
“Without such information, in the Malaysian context, the work of a housewife will continue to be undervalued,” she said.
Nonetheless, the Bill also draw flak from former deputy women, family and community development minister Hannah Yeoh, who described the estimate as an insult to housewives.
“The minimum wage rate recently introduced by the government is RM1,500. The foreigners who prepare our drinks at coffee shops earn up to RM3,000,” she said in her debate on the bill.
“But the ‘presumed monthly income’ for our housewives is only RM600. This is insulting.”
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