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Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 29 (4) Dec. 2021 / JSSH-8173-2021


Gender Norms and Gender Inequality in Unpaid Domestic Work among Malay Couples in Malaysia

Harn Shian Boo

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 29, Issue 4, December 2021


Keywords: Gender inequality, gender norms, Malaysia, unpaid domestic work

Published on: 13 December 2021

This article explores how gender norms rooted in culture and religion influence gender inequality among Malay couples in Malaysia. Studies on the unbalanced division of unpaid domestic work are pivotal because they negatively affect women’s economic status, well-being and life. Many studies have indicated that gender inequality in the division of household labour persists even after accounting for paid work time and resources, suggesting that gender norms lead to the unequal division in unpaid domestic work. By using gender perspective as the theoretical perspective, this study explores how men and women behave according to cultural and religious defined gender roles and are expected to behave as such. In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine Malay couples in Malaysia. The study suggests that women shoulder a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare due to the cultural and religious gender norms that foster the prescribed roles, emphasising men’s role as the primary breadwinners and women’s role as the homemakers. This study highlights that gender norms rooted in culture and religion plays vital roles in creating gender inequality among Malay couples. Moreover, this study adds support to the gender perspective that not only gender role ideology matter, but also highlights that religiosity matters when accounting for gender norms in Malay society. This study implies that recognising the importance of cultural and religious gender norms around domestic work as women’s work is crucial in narrowing the gender gap in unpaid domestic work.

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