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Housewives’ Social Security Bill 2022 Passed. What Does It Mean To Malaysian Housewives?

The duties of a housewife or a homemaker are never-ending. There is no fixed 9-5 schedule and no recording of overtime hours. Some wake up as early as 430am to prepare breakfast and lunchboxes for their school-going children and others stay up late to clean up the mess and complete another laundry load. 

The duties of a housewife just never end. Throw business and work in the mix and these super moms literally work round the clock – cleaning, preparing meals, tending to toddlers, answering customer requests, managing their home-based business; baking, wrapping, cooking, shipping, marketing on social media – the list just goes on and on. 

Source: Astro Awani

In 2021, it was recorded that 4.95 million or 68.3% of the female population in Malaysia are not part of the labour force[1].

What that means is that these women are missing out on the social protection coverage such as SOCSO provided to working individuals in the labour force.

If you’re not formally employed then you’re not covered by any kind of social protection. – Datuk Emeritus Prof Dr Norma Mansor,  Economics and Social Protection Expert, Universiti Malaya[2]

For years, housewives are left vulnerable to injuries while performing household chores with no protection at bay.

Don’t assume that there are no accidents at home. There’s no guarantee that you won’t be splattered with hot oil while cooking. Or you may accidentally touch a hot pan. You may also slip while cleaning the toilet. – Qurnisha Hamka, 33, housewife[2] 

Unprotected by SOCSO, housewives have to depend on their families to pay for insurance or dip into their savings when medical treatment is required.  

I have been a housewife for almost all my life having to care for my husband and seven children. Even at home, accidents do happen and at least I have the insurance scheme to fall back on, in case of accidents or death in the family. – Veronica Aju Linggih, 47, housewife[3]

Silver Lining: The Housewives’ Social Security Bill 

Source: Retrieved from The Edge Markets

In July 2022, the Housewives’ Social Security Bill (HSS) was tabled for its first reading by Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan. The Bill outlines that:

•Housewives below 55 will be eligible for the voluntary insurance scheme to be managed by SOCSO.

•The term ‘housewife’ in the Bill refers to any woman married or unmarried managing a household on a full-time or part-time basis. It also includes wives, divorcees, widows and single mothers.

•Under the scheme, spouses will have to pay RM120 in advance to the social security body, SOCSO, to provide 12 months of protection for their wives.

•Single mothers or homemakers could also contribute should their husbands decide not to sign up for the scheme with a payment as low as RM10 per month.

•As to not burden housewives living in extreme poverty, the scheme will be free for 150,000 registered under the government’s i-Suri initiative. 

Under the scheme, housewives are entitled to medical benefits, permanent disability benefits, regular attendance allowance, survivor’s pension and funeral benefits. The compensation ranges between RM300 and RM50,000 depending on the severity of their injuries. 

For example, a homemaker suffering from end-stage renal failure will be given RM200 a month to support their dialysis treatment. 

The Bill was passed by a voice vote in Dewan Rakyat to the great relief of many housewives out there. 

Positive Praises From Housewives 

Many were pleased with the news, especially single mothers who solely raise their families. 

Patricia Charles, a single mother, supports her daughter by running an online food business while also depending on her late husband’s pension. She sighs in relief at the affordable rate of the insurance policy. 

Imagine, at my age, it is very expensive to get an insurance policy these days. I am trying to put food on the table for my small family and getting an insurance policy is not viable at all for me. This HSS Bill is definitely timely. – Patricia Charles, 44, a single mother[3]

Hartanty Hardi, who has meagre savings, sees this as an advantage to many housewives such as her. 

I strongly support the Bill because we do not know what the future holds. This insurance scheme provides a sense of relief in times of need, especially when one does not have much savings. – Hartanty Hardi, 44, housewife[3]

And in the current situation where self-employment becomes a norm, Wan Anis Ilyani Wan Mohd Azhar, a home baker with irregular income sees the scheme as a nod to the important role housewives play as the backbone of a family and the community. 

Since I’m self-employed with no regular income, this scheme is very helpful. It also allows husbands to show concern and take care of their wives’ needs. – Wan Anis Ilyani Wan Mohd Azhar, 34, home baker[2]

But, some details require tweaking despite a generally positive sentiment.  

Valuing The Role Of Housewives 

As it is a newly-sanctioned law, there have been details contested by parliamentarians and women’s rights organisations. This includes the valuation of household chores performed by a housewife. The Bill has assumed RM600 as the “presumed work value” of daily household chores. 

Jernell Tan of the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) describes the RM600 value attached to household chores as an undervaluation. Unpaid care work including housework contributed to more than 20% of the country’s GDP in 2015[4]

Source: The Star

Being a housewife is a 24/7 vocation. This estimate is not just inappropriate. It is an abomination. Jernell Tan, Communications Officer, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) communications officer[4]

A similar sentiment was raised by Engender Consultancy founder, Omna Sreeni-Ong commenting that the multiple roles of a stay-at-home parent daily would amount to more than the estimated RM20 per day as stated on the Bill[4]

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. All these tasks, if calculated, would be many times more than what is valued in the Bill, which is RM20 per day. Omna Sreeni-Ong, Founder, Engender Consultancy[4]

The Member of Parliament of Segambut, Hannah Yeoh says that the figure is “insulting” as RM600 is lower than the new minimum wage of RM1,500 and those who work in coffee shops can earn up to RM3,000 a month. 

Source: The Vibes

But, the rationale behind the “presumed work value”, according to SOCSO’s chief communications and corporate affairs officer, Izad Raya is to ensure that the voluntary contribution would be affordable for low-income households. 

If the ‘presumed work value’ is revised to match the RM1,500 minimum wage, then the contribution rate would increase to RM418.80 a year or RM34.90 per month. – Izad Raya, Chief Communications and Corporate Affairs Officer, SOCSO[5]

Other than the undervaluation of household chores, the scheme only extends its safety net to housewives below 55 years.  Being a housewife compared to other forms of employment doesn’t have a set retirement age. 

Only housewives below 55 years old are eligible for social security coverage under this Bill. This eligibility criterion seems to ignore the reality whereby, unlike formal employment, being a housewife is a ‘vocation’ that can last as long as a woman lives. Women above 70 years also have greater risks of home injuries, and women have a higher life expectancy. Jernell Tan, Communications Officer, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) communications officer[6]

Further, the Bill did not acknowledge the minority group, house husbands that go through a similar predicament, shared Yu Ren Chung, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) deputy executive director[6].

Overall good, but it can be improved by extending eligibility to “househusbands” (for inclusivity & to avoid gender stereotyping). – Yu Ren Chung, Deputy Executive Director, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)[7] 

A Step To A Better Social Protection For All

As a start, the passing of the Housewives’ Social Security Bill (HSS) was a move in the right direction by recognising that household chores are equal to formal work. By doing so, the social protection in Malaysia has extended to housewives who are part of the nation’s economy. 

What’s important for us in Malaysia is to have wider coverage, which means more people are covered by social protection. – Datuk Emeritus Prof Dr Norma Mansor,  Economics and Social Protection Expert, Universiti Malaya[2]

Deputy Human Resources Minister, Datuk Awang Hashim, said the scheme is set to go through a further revision in the future to ensure no one is left behind. 

This is a new law and there will be room in the future for revision to include protection for husbands looking after the household. – Datuk Awang Hashim, Deputy Human Resources Minister[1]

With the implementation of the Housewives’ Social Security Bill, stay-at-home mothers are better safeguarded in the event of injuries at home or the loss of a spouse. But, there’s more to be done to ensure that the newly approved Bill will adequately protect homemakers regardless of age, gender and race. 

Explore our sources: 

  1. A. Yunus., H.N. Haron. (2022) Housewives’ Social Security Bill passed by Dewan Rakyat to provide insurance cover for 3 million. New Straits Times. Link 
  2. I.M.Iskandar. (2022). Protecting our homemakers. The Star. Link
  3. J.David. (2022). S’wakian homemakers laud Housewives’ Social Security Bill 2022. The Borneo Post. Link 
  4. E.Yap. (2022). Ask housewives for fair valuation of their worth, Putrajaya told. Free Malaysia Today. Link
  5. FMT Reporters. (2022). Housewives not employees as they don’t work for wages says Socso. Free Malaysia Today. Link 
  6. I.M.Iskandar. (2020). Plug gaps in Bill, govt told. The Star. Link.
  7. Yu Ren Chung. (30 July 2022). @renchung. Twitter. Link.

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