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Students in public higher education institutions in Malaysia 2012-2018 by gender

In 2018, 282,193 male students and 406,761 female students were enrolled in public higher institutions. While the number of female students enrolled had steadily decreased since 2012, there was still a significantly higher number of females than male students in 2018. This reflected the worldwide trend of more women entering higher education than men.

High enrollment numbers, low workforce participation rates

Despite this, the realities of gender inequality were felt soon after graduation. In 2017, women were still underrepresented in the workforce, where the labor force participation rate of male graduates was significantly higher than that of females. The average female employee still earned less than the average male employee, and once married, almost half of these women stopped participating in the workforce.

Importance of women in the workforce

The deficit in female economic contribution was reflected in a 2015 survey of the business sector in Malaysia, where at that time less than 14 percent of all board members were female.The expectations on women to carry out the traditional role of caregiver in the family could only go so far to explain these statistics. Many Malaysians seemed to be aware that more needed to be done to address gender inequality in the business sector. To meet the challenges of Industry 4.0, Malaysia cannot afford to lose the contribution of its increasingly highly-educated and highly-skilled women in the workforce.

Number of students enrolled in public higher education institutions in Malaysia from 2012 to 2018, by gender

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Release date

December 2019



Survey time period

2012 to 2018

Supplementary notes

Figures have been rounded.

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