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Gender Politics and the Pursuit of Competitiveness in Malaysia: Women on Board

Juanita Elias

List price(s):
GBP 120.00

Publication date:
18 March 2020

Short description: 

This book is concerned with how the pursuit of national economic competitiveness by states has come to be intertwined with a globalised gender agenda—one in which women and the household economy are seen as ‘untapped’ resources.

In many East and Southeast Asian economies, competitiveness and the dangers of the middle-income trap dominate economic policy agendas: states’ commitments to gender equality goals are frequently framed around ‘business case’ logics in which women’s empowerment and women’s increased engagement in the productive economy is linked to the national economic project of building and enhancing competitiveness. This book looks to the case of Malaysia in order to assess how the increasingly dominant view that gender equality is ‘smart economics’ plays out in practice. Drawing upon extensive case study research and interview data, the book hones in on the complex gender politics that are at work within government initiatives that seek to enhance competitiveness via increasing women’s labour force participation, efforts to strengthen marriage and family life, and attempts to boost women’s entrepreneurialism and status within the corporate world.

Providing an account of the gender politics at work within ongoing processes of state transformation in Asia, this book will appeal to researchers and students in gender studies, Southeast Asian studies, International Political Economy and public policy.

Table of contents: 

Introduction: Bringing Women ‘On Board’
1. Promoting Competitiveness in Malaysia
2. Transforming Women’s Economic Participation: A Gender Politics of Competitiveness Promotion
3. ‘A First Class Mentality with a Heart for Progress’: The Family, Islam and the Moral Political Economy of Competitiveness
4. Civil Society, Market Feminism and the Creation of ‘Board Ready’ Women
5. Whose Social Reproduction? Migrant Domestic Work and the New Malaysian ‘Middle-Class Reality’
Conclusion: Gendering Competitiveness: Comparative Insights


Juanita Elias is Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick, UK. She is a feminist political economist particularly interested in gendered regimes of work, care and migration in Southeast Asia. Her articles have appeared in journals including: Review of International Studies; Asia Pacific Viewpoint; The Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies; International Feminist Journal of Politics; Globalizations; and Asian Studies Review. She has co-edited the Edward Elgar Handbook on International Political Economy and Gender (2018, with Adrienne Roberts); The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia (with Lena Rethel); and, The Global Political Economy of the Household in Asia (with Samanthi J. Gunawardana).




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