Working for Welfare: Inequality and Shared Vulnerability among the Malaysian Middle Classes
Keywords:Employment, inequality, middle classes, vulnerability, welfare
The predominance of wage employment in Malaysia can be observed from employment status data. Its predominance at this stage of economic development is not unique to Malaysia as it is a consequence of capitalist development observable around the globe. This expansion of wage employment is also accompanied by a shift in social protection systems around the world. Malaysia is at an early stage of moving in a similar direction. It is within this conceptual shift the Malaysian employment-based social protection strategies are examined. It addresses the underlying reality that working today is not only for the purpose of earning a current subsistence wage for many, but also to protect incomes in the future via a system that is pegged to the current income. The framework for the analysis is premised on the social and economic stratification perspective, more specifically in relation to social classes, inequality and vulnerability, especially for the middle classes. By taking this approach, this paper contextualises the Malaysian case in the same vein as other economies at a similar stage of development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, where the vulnerability of the middle classes is shown to be on the increase while earned or purchased welfare is increasingly seen as inadequate.