Selangor Journal
Image for illustration purposes only. — Picture via PEXELS

Care at the core

By Danial Dzulkifly

SHAH ALAM, Nov 18 — The Selangor Care Economy Action Framework 2024-2028 will set a new standard in recognising and formalising the economic contribution of caregivers and housewives to the national economy.

State executive councillor for women empowerment and welfare Anfaal Saari said there is currently no equivalent in Malaysia to Selangor’s pioneering framework, which is expected to be rolled out in April next year.

The document’s drafting is a significant move in acknowledging the often-overlooked economic impact of caregiving and household management and sets a precedent for the Federal government and other states to follow.

Speaking to Selangor Journal, Anfaal also noted the tremendous economic impact of stay-at-home mothers.

“If we consider the average Malaysian salary of RM2,300 and apply it to housewives across the country, their annual contribution could amount to as much as RM6 billion,” she said in an interview on November 9.

Anfaal, however, emphasised that the true value of a mother’s work in managing a household and raising a family transcends financial metrics.

State executive councillor for women’s development Anfaal Saari speaks during her interview with Media Selangor in the State Secretariat Building, Shah Alam, on November 9, 2023. — Picture by NUR ADIBAH AHMAD IZAM/SELANGORKINI

“While it is challenging to quantify the sacrifices and efforts of mothers, my goal is to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve.

“We aspire to provide caregivers with the necessary support and social protection they need,” she said, highlighting the importance of acknowledging and supporting the role of caregivers in society.

Taking an example of the Housewives’ Social Security Scheme (SKSSR) under the Social Security Organisation (Socso), Anfaal said such an initiative should be lauded as it is a step in the right direction.

“This form of social protection enables, for instance, household heads to offer an additional security layer for their spouses, and it does so at a very affordable rate, with an annual contribution of just RM120,” she said.

SKSSR, launched on December 1 last year under the Housewives’ Social Security Act 2022, extends social security protection to housewives, covering domestic injuries, illnesses, and invalidity arising from household duties.

In line with this effort, Selangor introduced the MamaKerja initiative, providing a one-time financial aid of RM1,000 to 5,000 eligible working mothers to subsidise childcare costs.

The RM5 million allocated for the initiative accounts for over two-thirds of the RM7 million overall allocation for women empowerment in the state for this year.

During the tabling of the 2024 Selangor Budget on November 10, the state administration set aside RM1 million to develop the Selangor Care Economy Policy, which seeks to acknowledge the work of caregivers and homemakers and resolve the issues they face.

State executive councillor for women’s development Anfaal Saari (fifth from left) launching the MamaKerja childcare incentive at Mardhiyyah Hotel, Shah Alam, on October 26, 2023. — Picture by FIKRI YUSOF/SELANGORKINI

Providing safe options

Anfaal also reiterated Selangor’s commitment to increasing female participation in the workforce but said providing quality and accessible childcare is key to this goal.

The state’s ongoing licencing programme, aimed at regularising unregistered childcare centres, is a crucial step in ensuring these centres meet established best practices and building codes.

Recognising the importance of a safe and standardised childcare environment, she said such a setting is vital for supporting working mothers by offering dependable and secure care options for their children.

However, Anfaal acknowledged the challenges that childcare operators face in complying with local authority building codes, which can be both costly and time-consuming.

“These operators have raised concerns about the lengthy and expensive process required to meet compliance standards. We are actively collaborating with all local authorities to address these issues.

“We are also considering implementing uniform standards for these centres, but discussions are still ongoing,” she said.

The councillor added it would be difficult for childcare centres to be certified by the Welfare Department due to non-compliance with building regulations set by local authorities.

Separately, Anfaal said the comprehensive care framework being developed in Selangor will include a strong focus on infrastructure for social care, particularly elderly care.

Children being looked after at the MBSB Bank daycare centre in Menara MBSB, Petaling Jaya, on July 15, 2022. — Picture by BERNAMA

This aspect is becoming increasingly important as Malaysia is projected to become an ageing nation by 2030, with 15 per cent of its population expected to be over 60, according to data from the Statistics Department.

Passionate about the sustainability of senior homes, she is actively seeking solutions for centre operators, including finding viable sponsorship models to ensure they can continue.

“I recognise the diverse needs and circumstances surrounding elder care,” Anfaal said.

As part of her portfolio to improve elderly care, she stressed the need for initiatives to enhance senior care centres in Selangor, focusing on incorporating social elements and a range of activities for personal development.

However, Anfaal is concerned about the persistent stigma attached to senior care centres and advocates for greater understanding and empathy, stressing the need to dispel myths surrounding these facilities.

“There is a significant misconception that placing elderly parents in a care centre equates to abandonment, but that is not always true.

“Many choose because their work responsibilities prevent them from providing adequate care. Additionally, some seniors opt for these centres themselves, seeking specialised care, opportunities for social engagement, or simply a change in their living environment,” she said.

Senior citizens and residents of Rumah Jubeli Perak King George V in Pudu celebrating the Chinese New Year, in Kuala Lumpur on February 1, 2022. — Picture by BERNAMA


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