The latest Malaysia Gender Gap Index (MGGI) 2018 has recorded an improvement from the year before.

In particular, last year's MGGI stood at 0.711 (or 71.1%), a growth from the 0.697 reflected in 2017, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM)'s latest Statistics on Women Empowerment in Selected Domains 2019 report.

This ranked the country sixth in East Asia and the Pacific, two positions up from 2017 and ahead of Indonesia, China and Brunei Darussalam, said YBhg Dato' Sri Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin, Chief Statistician Malaysia.

This also meant that while men in the country earned an estimated RM38,088, women earned an estimated RM35,508 - i.e. for every RM100 a man earned in Malaysia, a woman earned RM93.20.

In line with this and in a move to find out what Malaysians know about the gender pay gap*, a recent YouGov study on 1,087 Malaysians found that although three in five Malaysians (62%) claimed to have some sort of understanding of the term, a majority (71%) were unable to correctly identify its definition.

*Note: In this context, the gender pay gap refers to a gender being paid less on average, as compared to another as a whole.
Further, one in four Malaysians (26%) believed women are paid less than men, with women more likely to believe so (30% of women, versus 20% of men).

That said, about 47% believed no gender pay gap exists, instead believing that both genders are paid equally. While a small percentage (8%) thought that men are paid less than women, this is predominantly believed by men (13% vs. 4%).

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What Malaysians think causes the gender pay gap

To a majority of those surveyed, the top reason was that fewer leadership positions were being offered to a particular gender (46%).

Following closely behind was an unconscious bias by employers (40%), and a particular gender doing jobs that don't pay as much (29%).

Rounding up the top four reasons was the belief that a particular gender being less educated than another gender (24%).

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Women surpassed men in education, a higher percentage of women held senior positions in 2018

While many may be inclined to think that women are paid less than men due to their education levels, the statistics tell a different story.

In fact, the DOSM report found that overall, women surpassed men in the sub-index Educational Attainment (which consists of literacy rate and gross enrollment rate), with a score of 1.054 (2017: 1.040).

Under this sub-index, the difference between the literacy rate of men (97%) and women (96.3%) was narrowed to just 0.7 percentage points (pp) in 2018 - a y-o-y improvement when compared to the 1.0pp gap in 2017 (2017: 97.3% and 96.3% for men and women respectively).

At the same time, the gross enrollment rate for women across all levels of education was found to be higher than their male counterparts.

The DOSM data also revealed that more women were seen in legislation, senior official and managerial roles in 2018, compared to 2017 which saw women holding 22.2% of such roles.

Overall, the labour force participation rate for women in 2018 (55.2%) was lower than that of men (80.4%), and the percentage of women in professional and technical roles was also lower (44.3% versus 55.7%).

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Infographics / YouGov and DOSM

Lead image / DOSM