Wages for Household work – UPSC GS1

  • ILO Report: Globally, women perform 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men. In Asia and the Pacific, this figure rises to 80%.
  • NSSO Data: Only about a quarter of men and boys above six years engaged in unpaid household chores, compared to over four-fifths of women.
  • Every day, an average Indian male spends 1.5 hours per day in unpaid domestic work, compared to about five hours by a female.
  • 159.85 million Women stated household work as their main occupation whereas only 5.79 men referred to it as their main occupation in the 2011 census.
  • The economic value of services provided by women is equivalent to making $612.8 billion annually.
Global trends on the recognition of housework:
  • Male and female domains have been marked separately for centuries. Market is considered as a male domain whereas home is considered as a female domain. These segregations justified husband’s control over family assets.
  • Until 1851, Women had no right over their own earnings in or out of the home, all over the world. Their wages used to be collected by husband as it was considered his right back then.
  • Shortly after 1850, laws in US started allowing wives with property rights on earnings from their personal labour.
  • Wages for Housework Movement:
    • The International Wages for Housework Campaign started in Italy in 1972 as a feminist movement that highlighted the role of gendered labour in the home and its connection to the production of surplus value under capitalism. The movement further spread to Britain and America.
Scenario in India:
  • In 2010, an application by the National Housewives Association, seeking recognition as a trade union was rejected by the deputy registrar of trade unions on the ground that housework is not a trade or an industry.
  • In 2012, the then minister for Women and Child development announced that the government was considering mandating a salary for housework to wives, from husbands.
  • Housework demands effort and sacrifice, 365 days a year, 24/7. Despite this, a huge proportion of Indian women are not treated equal to men.
  • A large number of women live with domestic violence and cruelty because they are economically dependent on others, mainly their husbands.
Arguments in Favour of Household Wage:
  • More Accurate National Income Accounting: Domestic labour of women is not accounted for in either the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the employment metrics. Neglecting to include it would thus mean underestimating GDP of the economy.
  • Makes Woman Autonomous and Controls Domestic Violence: The wage that the state ought to pay women would make them autonomous of the men on whom they were dependent.
  • Redefines the Role of Women: Changes social role of women.
  • Welfare of a large Segment of Population: According to the Census in 2011, people engaged in household duties have been treated as non-workers, even when 159.9 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation.
  • Recognition as the first step to Equality: Once recognised as work, this arena of unpaid domestic labour that is dominated almost entirely by women can become one where women can demand some degree of parity in terms of the time and energy expended on it.
  • Time Poverty: Combining paid work commitments with a mountain of menial, domestic labour at home means poor women are more likely to suffer from ‘time poverty’.
Against Household Wage:
  • Increased Responsibility: Asking men to pay for wives’ domestic work could further enhance their sense of entitlement. It may also put the additional onus on women to perform.
  • Strengthen the Position of Men: Buying domestic labour from wife poses a serious risk of formalising the patriarchal Indian family where the position of men stems from their being “providers” in the relationship.
  • Acceptance and application: Despite a legal provision, equal inheritance rights continue to be elusive for a majority of women.
  • Burden on Government: There are still debates on who would pay for the housework done by women, if it is to be done by the State then this will put additional fiscal burden on government finances.
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