The gender politics of economic competitiveness in Malaysia's transition to a knowledge economy
Many academic commentators have pointed to how the widening and deepening of a neoliberal reform agenda in Southeast Asia has brought about the end of developmental forms of state governance and the emergence of less directly market interventionist states pursuing economic 'competitiveness'. In this paper, I note how notions of competitiveness are increasingly fused with ideas regarding the contribution of gender equity and women's empowerment to national economic success. However, drawing upon a case study of Malaysia, this paper highlights how government policies stressing both the marketisation of social reproduction and the need to expand women's productive roles are constantly brought into tension with embedded social structures. Such an emphasis is essential to any understanding of the role of the Malaysian state in economic development - a role that has been fundamentally shaped by a localised politics of ethnicity. The paper draws upon examples from government policy-making that conceptualise women as key workers in the emerging knowledge-driven economy and as microentrepreneurs driving pro-poor economic growth and illustrates how such policies are brought into tension with traditionalist discourses concerning the appropriate role of women in society.
The Pacific Review
Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific