Husband must pay wife $US7700 for years of housework, Chinese court rules

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Beijing: A Chinese divorce court has ordered a husband to pay his wife more than $USD7700 ($9680) in compensation for the housework she performed during five years of marriage, in a landmark decision that activists hope will lead to greater protections for women in China.

The court in Beijing said this week that the husband was obliged to compensate his wife because housework carries “intangible property value” and should be considered an asset, according to Chinese news reports.

One divorce has raised attention about the unpaid cost of housework for women in China.Credit:iStock

The decision comes amid global debate about whether societies should do more to recognise and compensate women for work they perform at home. Studies show that in many countries, women shoulder a disproportionate burden of household labour, hindering their ambitions and career opportunities.

While some commentators in China hailed the case as a breakthrough, many people said the compensation was inadequate, noting that full-time nannies in China earn far more.

“This is so unfair to women,” wrote one user on Weibo, a microblogging site. A hashtag about the case had been viewed more than 570 million times as of late Wednesday.

“Let’s see who dares be a housewife,” said another.

Women perform an average of two hours and six minutes of housework each day in China, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with 45 minutes for men.

Chinese women, who have long endured discrimination at home and in the workplace, have pushed in recent years for better wages and fairer treatment. Activists have led campaigns against domestic violence, and a small #MeToo movement has spread in the country.

The legal system has become a focus of many complaints, because regulations make it difficult for women to obtain divorces and protect assets.

The Chinese government has offered some policies aimed at better protecting women’s rights, including a 2016 law against domestic violence. But enforcement of many such laws remains inconsistent.

Sexism in China is an issue for the public.Credit:AP

Advocates of gender equality in China said the decision affirmed the vital role women play in managing households. But they said it remained to be seen whether the decision will lead to broader changes in how women are treated in China.

“It acknowledges her housework to a certain degree and its economic value,” said Joy Lin, a Chinese activist who promotes gender equality. “But the compensation is not on par with what she should get and how she should be valued.”

New York Times

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