It has been a few days since the announcement of Budget 2020 and the dust has settled enough for a clearer review on what these new fiscal measures mean to Malaysians, particularly women and children on the whole.\r\n\r\nAs announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng on Oct 11, 2019, Budget 2020\u2019s theme of \u201cDriving Growth and Equitable Outcomes towards Shared Propserity\u201d features distributions focused on fairness for all. The thrusts of the budget are thus on levelling the playing field through inclusiveness and gender-equal opportunities while seeking to elevate the status of the rakyat with employability and financial wellbeing through education, skilling, reskilling and upskilling.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor Children & Youth\r\n\r\n1. Funds for Students, Schools and Studies \r\nFor children, they will have much to benefit from the RM64.1 billion given to the Ministry of Education for the continued development of students, schools and studies.\r\n\r\nSchool children will enjoy better facilities in that all existing schools will be maintained and upgraded while dilapidated ones, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, will be repaired.\r\n\r\nSeveral new schools will also be built in Langkawi, Kulai, Hulu Langat, Putrajaya, Pasir Gudang, Tumpat, Marang and Johor Bahru to accommodate the growing population.\r\n\r\nNational schools nationwide will also be made disabled-friendly.\r\n\r\n"This is in line with the Education Ministry's zero-reject policy, where no child is denied the right to education,\u201d said Lim in his Budget 2020 speech.\r\n\r\nVocational Training\r\n\r\nOut of the RM64.1 billion, RM5.9 billion has been allocated to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik\u00a0has said that the allocation is to ensure that TVET is taken as a serious career path henceforth.\r\n\r\nOne of the first steps his ministry will be taking is to set up a task force to streamline TVET institutions.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have a few plans, and we are coordinating with the industry so our TVET institutions can truly produce a skilled work force and every sen we spend will produce workers who are trained,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nTVET should not be seen as a \u201csecond option\u201d he further said, adding that Malaysia should be seen like countries such as Germany, where 60% of its citizens opt for TVET courses while the other 40% pursue academic courses.\r\n\r\nThe RM5.9 billion set aside for TVET is also to strengthen synergy between the public and private sectors to create job matches for vocational students and to prepare them for further studies.\r\n2. Upskilling for the Digital Economy & Industry 4.0\r\n\r\n\r\nAs for furthering training to drive the digital economy, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) will receive an allocation of RM20 million, matched by a RM20 million allocation from the Human Resources Dividend Fund to encourage working adults to take professional certification exams in Industry 4.0 related courses.\r\n3. Enabling Further Education & Student Loans\r\nLim announced at the Budget 2020 speech that the government will continue to emphasise learning opportunities under the MARA and the Bumiputera Education Leaders or Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan (Leadership Foundation). It will allocate RM1.3 billion for educational institutions under MARA, and RM2 billion to finance loans for 50,000 students.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn addition, RM192 million will be allocated to professional certification programmes under the Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan,\u201d he said.\r\n4. Healthcare and Free Immunisation for Children\r\n\r\n\r\nBudget 2020 has also laid out benefits for the very young. In terms of better healthcare, all babies born in 2020 including children who have been born earlier but have not taken the vaccine will receive free pneumococcal vaccination from 2020 onwards, thanks to the RM60 million allocation provided by Budget 2020 under the government\u2019s Immunisation Programme. Before this, the vaccine had to be taken at private medical establishments and the cost of over RM200 for each vaccine had to be borne by the parents themselves. The number of doses a child needs depends on the age the child was when he or she started getting the shots.\r\n\r\nPneumococcal diseases are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can lead to infections in the lungs (pneumonia), blood, and brain. This includes\u00a0meningitis, blood infections (sepsis), and\u00a0ear infections (sinus and otitis media). The greatest risk for infection is for children younger than the age of two, adults over 65, people with certain medical conditions, and cigarette smokers. The vaccine prevents the disease in both children and adults.\r\n5. Tax Exemption for Parents who send Children to Registered Daycare Centres\r\nFurther benefits for children\u2019s welfare and wellbeing include more tax exemptions for parents who send their children to registered daycare centres and kindergartens. In light of this, the current exemption of RM1,000 will be raised to RM2,000. A further RM30 million will be allocated to set up more daycare centres, especially at hospitals and schools.\r\n6. EPF Withdrawal and Income Tax Relief for IVF\r\nBudget 2020 has allocated for those who are trying for children using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). These couples may now withdraw from their EPF for the procedure. The income tax relief of up to RM6000 given for expenses incurred for medical treatment of serious illnesses will be expanded to include expenses incurred for fertility treatment.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor Women & Mothers\r\n\r\n1. RM500 Monthly Incentive, Income Tax Exemptions for Women \r\nThe government has set a target of achieving a 60% labour force participation rate (LFPR) for women. In consideration of those who have stopped working for a year or more, Budget 2020 has set up an initiative for women to return to the workforce, both to help them achieve better financial independence and to contribute to the economy.\r\n\r\nBecause many women may have opted to give up their career to become stay-at-home mums, the government has pledged to give these women a RM500 monthly incentive (on top of their salaries) for two years if they return to work. Eligible women are those aged 30 to 50. \u00a0The employer will also receive a monthly incentive of RM300 for hiring them for the duration of two years.\r\n\r\nFurthermore, women who return to work will enjoy extended income tax exemption from now until 2023.\r\n2. 90-Day Maternity Leave from 2021\r\nApart from that, maternity leave has been proposed to be increased from the current 60 days to 90 days for the private sector to enable mothers to bond with their babies yet still return to the workforce after giving birth. This will take place in 2021, as announced by the Human Resources Ministry.\r\n3. Encouraging Women Entrepreneurship\r\n\r\n\r\nTo encourage women entrepreneurship, Budget 2020 will see the government allocating RM500m as guaranteed facility for women entrepreneurs via Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan Bhd (SJPP).\r\n\r\nSkim Jaminan Pinjaman Perniagaan will be enhanced, with the government guarantee raised to 80% of the loan amount while the guarantee fee will be reduced to 0.75%. A RM500 million guarantee facility has been set aside especially for women entrepreneurs.\r\n\r\nSME Bank will introduce two new funds: a RM200m fund specially for women entrepreneurs, and a RM300m fund to support SMEs with potential to become regional champs.\r\n\r\nll in all, Budget 2020 has been said to be a budget that thinks of improving the lives of everyone \u2500 even the man in the street. Other extras that will be enjoyed by all in the year to come include: more and improved public transport, public toll rates at selected highways and expressways\u00a0 being reduced and fuel subsidies for cars and motorbikes.\r\n\r\nFor more stories on Working Mothers, visit Motherhood.com.my.