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Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 29 (3) Sep. 2021 / JSSH-8147-2021


Unpaid Domestic Work and Gender Inequality in the Time of COVID-19 in Malaysia

Harn Shian Boo

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2021


Keywords: COVID-19, gender inequality, Malaysia, unpaid domestic work

Published on: 27 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic affected how we spend our time in the workplace and at home. Moreover, it caused employed couples to simultaneously work from home and deal with unpaid work due to Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO). What happens to housework and childcare responsibilities when women and men are required to work from home due to an abrupt lockdown? Who is doing the housework and childcare? Who should be responsible for unpaid domestic work? What are the factors that affect men’s share in housework and childcare? This paper reports the early results of an online survey conducted on Malaysian men and women during the nationwide imposed lockdown in May 2020. In addition, it discusses how the pandemic affected unpaid housework and childcare time and responsibilities in Malaysia. The findings suggest that women spend more time on housework and childcare than men and are responsible for most unpaid domestic work during COVID-19. These findings are consistent with those obtained before the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings also suggest that the time availability perspective affects men’s share in housework and that the relative resources perspective affects their share in childcare during COVID-19. Overall, the results call for policy attention to the factors that narrow gender inequality in unpaid domestic work.

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