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Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 31 (2) Jun. 2023 / JSSH-8608-2022


Women’s Empowerment in Malaysia and Indonesia: The Autonomy of Women in Household Decision-Making

Chiew Way Ang and Siow Li Lai

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 31, Issue 2, June 2023


Keywords: Indonesia Demographic and Health Survey, Malaysian Population and Family Survey, women’s empowerment, women’s autonomy in household decision-making

Published on: 16 June 2023

Ensuring gender equality and empowering women is crucial, as they play a significant role in driving economic and societal development. This study examines women’s empowerment levels in Malaysia and Indonesia, two neighbouring countries with a predominantly Muslim population. Data were obtained from the Fifth Malaysian Population and Family Survey 2014 and the Indonesia Demographic and Health Survey 2017. A total of 5,175 Malaysian and 34,467 Indonesian married women aged 15–49 were selected for this study. The variables used include women’s autonomy in household decision-making (a proxy for women’s empowerment), educational level, work status, place of residence, number of children, and women’s age. Findings reveal that Malaysia has a higher proportion of women with tertiary education than Indonesia (25.2% versus 14.7%). However, the proportion of women who were employed was lower in Malaysia than in Indonesia (45.4% versus 57.0%). Concerning household decision-making participation, approximately 46% of Malaysian women participated in all household decisions, as compared to 73% among Indonesian women. Binary logistic regression analysis indicates that all selected independent variables, except the place of residence, were significantly associated with women’s autonomy in household decision-making in both countries at the multivariate level. Women’s socio-economic characteristics greatly influence their status in the household and decision-making autonomy. Enhancing women’s education and employability can empower them and strengthen their decision-making autonomy.

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