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Wages for Household Work

Wages for Household Work

In Tamil Nadu, a political party is making an interesting promise during its election campaign—they’re pledging to pay salaries to housewives. This move has sparked attention, given that a 2018 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed a global trend where women contribute 76.2% of the total hours spent on unpaid care work, a workload over three times greater than that of men. In the Asia-Pacific region, this gender gap in unpaid care work widens even further, reaching 80%.

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Global Unpaid Care Work: Across the world, women end up doing a lot more unpaid care work than men, totaling 76.2% of all such hours. In places like Asia and the Pacific, it’s even higher at 80%.

National Picture in India: In India, when it comes to household chores, only about 25% of guys over six years old pitch in, while a whopping 80% of women are doing their part.

Daily Domestic Contributions in India: On a daily basis, the average Indian guy puts in about 1.5 hours of unpaid domestic work, whereas the average Indian woman dedicates a more substantial five hours.

Occupational Trends: As of the 2011 census, a staggering 159.85 million women declared household work as their main gig, compared to a mere 5.79 million men.

Economic Value of Women’s Work: The services provided by women at home are economically significant, adding up to a staggering $612.8 billion annually.

Limited Rights for Women: Until 1851, women worldwide had no rights over their earnings, both inside and outside the home. Husbands would collect their wives’ wages, considering it their rightful control.

Legal Changes in the US: Around 1850, laws in the United States started to evolve, granting wives property rights over earnings from their personal labor, marking a significant shift in women’s economic autonomy.

Wages for Housework Movement: In 1972, the International Wages for Housework Campaign emerged in Italy as a feminist movement. It aimed to shed light on the gendered nature of labor in the home and its connection to generating surplus value under capitalism. The movement later expanded to include Britain and America.

Scenario in India

  • Back in 2010, the National Housewives Association applied to be recognized as a trade union, but the deputy registrar of trade unions said no because they didn’t see housework as a trade or industry.
  • Then, in 2012, the Women and Child Development minister revealed that the government was thinking about making it mandatory for husbands to pay their wives a salary for doing housework.


  • 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

Recognizing Women’s Contribution: Currently, the hard work put in by women in managing households doesn’t get counted in our economic measurements like GDP or employment stats. This oversight means we’re actually underestimating the overall economic activity in our country.

Empowering Women and Curbing Violence: If the state pays women for their domestic labor, it can give them financial independence, reducing their dependence on men. This not only empowers women but can also play a role in controlling domestic violence.

Changing Societal Expectations: By acknowledging the work women do at home as a legitimate occupation, we’re challenging traditional gender roles. This shift in perception can lead to a broader redefinition of the role of women in society.

Addressing a Huge Workforce: The 2011 Census overlooked a massive workforce by not considering those primarily engaged in household duties as workers. This affects 159.9 million women, and recognizing their contribution can significantly impact the welfare of this large segment of the population.

Step Towards Equality: Acknowledging domestic labor as legitimate work is a crucial step towards gender equality. It opens the door for women to demand fair treatment, recognizing the time and effort they invest in unpaid domestic work.

Combating ‘Time Poverty’: Many poor women face the challenge of balancing paid work with extensive domestic responsibilities. Acknowledging the value of their domestic labor can contribute to addressing the issue of ‘time poverty’ and improving the overall well-being of these women.

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.

Read Also: CGPSC Released Notification for 2023, know the last date to apply

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