Housewife Worth: Does It Count

By | July 16, 2021
Housewife Worth

Read this article on Housewife Worth: Does It Count by Saumya Singh only on Legal Bites.

Introduction

Women Empowerment!! ideology spread like a wildfire but wasn’t able to derive the power of fire, waves of feminism started centuries ago but the struggle to recognize women clabber is still uncovering its way, as her service for the family is her duty which doesn’t have any economic worth in eyes of the patriarchal world. Hence, this problematic idea is well patronised in our Indian society and is quite apparent when an application submitted by the National Housewives Association for seeking reorganization as a trade union a decade ago but was rejected on the basis of the argument that housework is not a trade or an industry [1].

While tracing the act of misogamy I came across the data presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the 2011 census for categorising homemakers as “non-worker” and equating them with “ beggars and prisoners”[2] which totally betrayed the approach of then minister Krishna Tirath, she announced that “the government was considering mandating a salary for homemaker wife from husband[3] and the proposal was never materialised and met a slow death”.

So now the question arises why am I talking about this now? Decades passed but this pandemic made me realised that woman who is considered the “Queen”, we people have failed to recognize the worth of her skill and questioned her ability of decision making.

A study in Uttarakhand, published in 2011 in Mountain Research and Development Journal titled “Women Contribution to Household Food and Economic Security: A study at the Garhwal Himalayas”, drives home this point. It was reported that women there say “housework is equivalent of doing nothing. However, when their work was analysed, it was noticed that while the men in the region worked for nine hours a day on average, the women were toiling for 16 hours.[4]

After scrutinizing hundreds of data one thing is clear that it’s above the notion that housemakers do not work or do not add value to the household but women underestimating their capability and are not commodify their reproductive service.

Why in News?

January 2021, Kamal Hassan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam, tweeted the party’s vision document – Tamizh Nadu 2021. ‘Prosperity to every Tamilian can be achieved on the back of an enterprise economy that would generate jobs. Housewife itself is a big job and should be paid commensurately. Paying housewives for doing their job is an idea whose time has truly come and shall ensure it.’[5] The idea was welcomed by Shashi Tharoor, who tweeted that this will monetise the services of women homemakers in society, enhance their power and autonomy and create near-universal basic income.

With politicians playing their cards over this agenda, the Supreme Court of India contemplatively foregrounds the notion of homemaker income while hearing the compensation case. In which Justice Ramana, manifested his views by saying “Value of woman’s work at home was no less the work of men who work in the office and enhanced the compensation to relatives of a couple who died when a car hit’’.

He referred to recent reports of the National Statistical Office and cited Census data of 2011 [6] and quoted that ‘women prepare food, manages procurement of groceries and shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and surrounding, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance. Despite these factors, the conception that homemakers do not work or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must overcome.’[7]

Lately, on December 2020 an international campaign for “internal wages for housework” was planned by all-Poland Women Strike.[8] Among the long faces of highly restrictive abortion law, All- Poland Women Strike is fervently working for women’s rights by all possible means and wages for the housewives are one of many thoroughgoing legislative demands.

The recent picks over the sensitive topics give us a sense of recognition, and that people fight for the upliftment of women is not going in vain. Where courts are addressing these issues lays out a woman an environment of financial security and a place where her work is not inconsiderate. With a steady pace, we are approaching the constitutional vision of social equality.

Demand for Wages: History

International struggle-

Dictate for wages to house-maker first came in highlight during the third National Women’s Liberation Conference in Manchester, England.[9] But it wasn’t the first time history have heard the uproar for the struggle for house maker, In1898 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published the book Women and Economic which argued for paid housework.

74 years after a social activist feminist, writer Selma James in 1972 formed a campaign for unpaid domestic care workers and named it the International Wages for Housework Campaign [IWFHC].[10] In the mid-70s men who concur with the thought of wages for housework formed their organisation and came to be known as Payday men’s network and threw in together with IWFHC, Global Women Strike in London. [11]

Between these campaigns, there were countries setting up precedents for the globe by recognising housewives worth through economic independence. Article 36 of the Cambodian constitution ‘affirms that the work by casalinghe in the home shall have the same value as what they receive if they work outside the home’.[12] Furthermore, Article 88 of the Venezuelan Constitution which is interpreted as ‘the state recognises housework as an economic activity and produces social welfare and wealth of casalinghe, with add to that they are entitled to social security.[13]

Persuaded by these paths breaking legislation Poland set up a consultative council under activists Nadia Oleszczuk during October – November 2020 protest to form specified legislation that discusses wages for housewives.[14]

Numerous Countries have manifested their growth by prioritizing the vanquish thought of empowerment. But is India able to recognise the existence of housewife, beyond the duties she is bound to serve as a woman? Let’s read through the struggle of Indian history acknowledging house maker worth.

India’s Struggle

Our judiciary has worked for the citizens with a sense of equality and fairness. But we have seen many instances of prejudicial behaviour towards our women while estimating the homemaker value while pronouncing a judgment Mali Devi v. Sukhbir Singh (1979)[15] a case under Motor Accident Claims a woman who died in an accident, Delhi High Court assessed it and provide monthly compensation of 150 rupees by taking care of 6 members of the family and helping her husband in farm work by underestimating her financial and non-financial contribution for family.

This incident had churned down the faith of thousand on judiciary into pieces, as the loss of her life will not impact the people around her physically but mentally too. A constant struggle to acknowledge housewife eminence got its victory in 2001.

While hearing the case on August 16 2001 Lata Wadhwa v. State of Bihar, [16] Supreme Court for the first time predetermined the ceiling on the compensation and the amount was enhanced for the service relinquish by wives to Rs. 36,000/annum or 3000 /month for all those homemakers between 34- 59 years of age and for the elderly women, the amount curled unto 1600/month.

But was it enough? This question made me scout for further research and no wonder I came across an abhorrent incident of 2010, “an application by National Housewives Association,[17] seeking reorganization as a trade union was rejected on the ground that housework is not a trade or an industry”. This incident brings back the quote from Marilyn Waring a public policy and economist who said “One can’t frame productive policy if they eliminate a whole huge sector of their national economy and consider nothing to the reproductive labour.”

The report by Evangelical Society Action Forum and HealthBridge has calculated the value of unpaid work performed by women in India amounts at approx. US $612 billion dollars per year, and if their work would have been monetized and value of unpaid labour around the globe stand as $11 trillion.[18] Yet our casalinghe and their work remain unnoticed and treated as if their work adds no value to our economy.

Way to Assign Monetary Value

The tasks of the housewives are emotionally and physically exhausting and that conjecturing her affection in the dough is a task. The perplexity to calculate the worth of homemakers is perturbing. Especially, during this time were workforce participation rate of women have been rebuffing and estimated gross national income per capita for a female is so minimal when compared to our underdeveloped or developing neighbouring nation.[19] Hence, it makes this issue important for our governments to evaluate upon and review the economic condition of woman which need a more sustained conversation in all the aspect for mobilising the salaries of housewives.

And in order to calculate the wages for the housewives we have first segregated the ruler and urban women and then list common -indifferent tasks, this will make the job easy to assign the comparable worth to their work.

Opportunity CostSubjects of economics have performed many studies related to the applicability of opportunity cost and it represents the potential benefit an individual missed out on choosing one alternative over another.[20] This can be simply explained by calculating the woman’s service that she provides at home without wage and if same effort and time she would have devoted to the skilled job by taking into account her educational qualification, age, considering and her children what potential benefit she would have gained.

Though this method is yet not in particle circulation while providing wages to homemakers, our judiciary has wisely looked upon this method for awarding the compensation to the family of a homemaker who has faced causality during accidents. And does make us realise that we can look forward to the theory of opportunity cost while computing homemakers merit.

Comparable worth methodComparable worth method in economics is a general policy to develop an equal footing over the patterns of unequal remuneration faced within a firm. It talks about that jobs of equal value should pay equal wages on the basis of the skill, effort and responsibility required.[21]

Now the question arises how can it be a preferable method to compute homemaker worth, as by comparing the value produced by homemakers or vis-a-vis occupations that are related or have the same monetary worth can be studied together and provide the defined wage to housewives.

Replacement Value- Calculated on the basis of how much it would cost if the same work is replaced with the paid workers based on current hourly wages, number of tasks that are performed for comparable worth.

For purpose of the case study replacement value method is adopted. The value of an unpaid worker is calculated by the cost of paying someone else based on wages for comparable work.

Pay Equity- Under this theory, jobs would be evaluated in terms of skill, responsibility, effort, working conditions, amount of work; this will lead to the inclusion of the management and counselling aspects of homemakers and will focus on the work done rather than the person doing it.[22]

Is this policy practical?

While discussing the multiple ways of assigning the monetary value to home-makers work, an inquisition struck my conscious that ‘is this policy practical, can we administer it?’, and the answer seemed obvious, “that we are not prepared enough to give women her unapprehended position which remains invisible in hands of chauvinism and these are the following fears that supervene our insecurities towards housewives gaining their unsung financial position.”

Social IsolationThe issue this topic address is the gender gap, economic instability in unpaid domestic work considering it to be the progressive policy might backfire and encage the housewives under the stigma of gender role than shared responsibility that feminist economist Diania Elson put in an argument while explaining the theory of TRIPLE-R that is ‘recognition, reduction and redistribution of domestic work and hence by making house maker duty a job and monetize their care, will formally endorse social stigma that domestic and care worker are ‘women’s work’ for which they are paid. By this, the theory of redistribution derived by Diania will completely fail.

The sociologist, Ann Oakley studied massive work on the history of housework and penned down in her publication in the 1970s[23] criticized this policy heavily she went on saying that wages for housework will impact the life of homemaker and will increase social isolation.

Widen women’s opportunity The choice to work in and out should rest in hands of women, the real struggle to women’s moment is freedom from dreary household chores and let their skill choose the path she wants to serve her labour. The focus, in turn, needs to encourage women labour participation as stated above the statistics have indicated the ill condition of the national market in women participation to be at a declining rate. The tussle that females are facing is the equity pay and with the passing time situation in our nation is degrading when we talk about the gender gap index presented by the World Economic Forum we have slipped down to 112th position[24] making it worst for her to get any incentive to work as her skilled is overshadowed in light of chauvinism.

Hence, there is a need to educate people on gender equality rather than letting the gender stereotype overtake it, adequate recognition should be given to the unpaid work of women, her choice to work as housewives should be respected in the same way working women are respected for.

Way Ahead

For success, we have to eliminate the root causes which is halting the path of gain and there are the following recommendations if are implemented will squabble the dawns of patriarchy and might act as a watershed step for the acceptance of house-maker worthiness.

Constitutional acknowledgement- Constitutional affirmation regarding house maker’s work will solidify the act of women worth and will lay the path for justice and equity that is long-awaited. The state should guarantee the equitable treatment of both sexes in the exercise of the right to work and recognise work at home as economic activity, which is constructive in nature and add value to the economy. Housewives should baptize to social security as described by law. Hence, an explicit mention of the status of the housewives and the value of their work in accordance with working women should be equivalent in the book of the constitution.

Alteration in Workmen’s Compensation Act- This act provides compensation to certain classes of workmen or their dependents in case of a person injured caused disablement or died due to an accident. The provisions of this act are used to calculate compensation for deceased employed men, hence make it easy for the courts to provide payment on basis of his hourly wages, salary, commission, bonuses and skilled profession. But there is no provision specifying legalised compensation for housewives if they met an unfortunate situation.

Even volunteer workers like Anganwadi, ASHAs, ANM, MGNEGA and paid domestic workers, so though a part of the sates machinery are not even addressed as workers and are certainly denied of all labour rights.[25] Hence, there is a need for perpetual provision, untighten her and her dependence to get payments with ought any delay.

Gender fluid job – A person who manages the house and does household chores for others is known as a housewife or house manager. They are two sides of the same coin, either way, it holds the same responsibility of a family. But with growing awareness towards gender fluid jobs, making domestic work restricted to a single-sex is not acceptable and there is an exigency for development where domestic work need to be categories under gender-neutral expression.

For example, every institution requires the details of the person occupation while filling the documents it has been usually observed that the columns only states housewives as an occupation that is solely reserved for women. These ignorant acts by the administration for years have directed women to be a home manager. Hence there are a number of minute details which need to be amended. Sociologist reports have suggested it to be the patriarchal out-turn of inconsequential decisions.

Recognise, Reduction, Redistribute- Professor Diane Elson has suggested 3 interconnected dimensions which address the growth of unpaid workers by regulating the model of Triple-R. The goal of this model is to identify the uneven distribution and flawed recognition of women workforce with inadequate economic support and the Triple-R approach want to desegregate unpaid women workers into the mainstream economy by applying this theory. Let’s deliberate over the Triple-R model of Elson.[26]

Recognition- Much of women’s work is unrecognized and underestimated by the patriarchal setting which includes family, organisations and states regardless of policies created by these institutes for homemakers. Hence, the unrecognised labour leads to unestablished economical contribution and adversely impact economic development, adversities don’t stop here but grow along with gender inequality and increases hierarchy in gender relation. Recognition, therefore, provides people with a fair picture of state policies and their effect and monitors the declining gender inconsistency.

Reduction- The motive of reduction policy is to provide free time to housewives so that it can be utilised in social or political activities and it needs to track the freed-up is not devoted to the other unpaid works. The contributor to the reduction policy is the infrastructural and technological development. Giving the housewife to explore their hidden or lost aptitude towards life and make one well-recognised by her capability to work with broaden periphery of skill she gained.[27]

Redistribution- Distribution of domestic work between women and men, which directly challenge the gender role assigned by the society and it also ensure the burden of care work is not headed to the housewives and is shared among the society members. [28]

Thus, the straightforward argument in favour of housewives is that “work in any form requires effort for which a human needs an appreciation, respect and reorganisation, which ultimately motivate them to improve their adroitness”. Therefore it’s well said that ‘People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract”

Hence, before concluding I want to entertain all my readers with the exquisite thought by Simone de Beauvoir “Her home is her earthly lot, the expression of her social worth, and her intimate truth. Because she does nothing, she avidly seeks herself in what she has”.


[1] Arpan Tulsyan, A salary to women for domestic work, TNIE at.5, Jan.9 2020, Available Here

[2] Ministry of Home Affairs, 2011 Census Data, Available Here

[3] Arpan Tulsyan, supra note1, at 3

[4] International Mountain Society, Mountain Research and development, Vol.31, NO.2, May 2011, JSTOR, Nov.2011, Available Here

[5] All India, Housewife itself a big job, they should be paid, NDTV, Feb.29 2020, Available Here

[6] Dhanajay Mahapatra, Value of homemaker work same as hubby at office: SC, TIO, Jan.22 2021, Available Here

[7] Ministry of Home Affairs, supra note 2, at 2

[8] Human Right Watch, Poland; Escalating Threat to women activists, HRW, March 31 2021, Available Here

[9] Feminist Archive North, National women librations Conference 1-4, Available Here

[10] Selma James, I found the wages for housework campaign in1972- and women are still working for free, Independent March 8 2020, Available Here

[11] Off our backs inc, Global women strike targets big business, Vol. 32, No.5/6 JSTOR at. 4, May-June 2002, Available Here

[12] COMBODIA CONST. art.36, cl.3.

[13] VENEZUELAN CONST. art. 88, cl.4.

[14] Human Right Watch supra note 3, at. 8.

[15] Mali Devi v. Sukhbir Singh, (1979) 2 SSC 687 (India)

[16] Lata Wadhwa v. State of Bihar, (2001) 8 SCC 197 (India)

[17] Arpan Tulsyan, supra note 4, at. 3.

[18] Rakesh Bhatnagar, SC raps govt. Homemaker are not non-worker, DNA July 24 2010, Available Here

[19] Annettee Dxon, Women in India Economic Growth, The World Bank, March.16 2018, Available Here

[20] Jason Fernando, Opportunity Cost, Investopedia, Dec. 27 2020, Available Here

[21] The Editors from Britannica, Comparable Worth (economics), Britannica, March 20 2019, Available Here

[22] Pay Equity Commission, Advance women’s Economic Equality, 21 Feb. 2020, Available Here

[23] Rosemary Firth, David Lee, The Sociology of Housework by Ann Oakley: Review, Vol.9 No. 3 JSTOR at.10, Sept. 1975, Available Here

[24] Jagadish Shettigar, Pooja Misra, How India fared in global gender gap report 2021, Mint 7 April 2021, Available Here

[25] Shalini Langer, What is worth of a woman household work, TNIE at7, March 28 2021, Available Here

[26] Dian Elson, Recognize reduce and redistribute unpaid care worker, ResearchGate Vol. 7 No. 3, March 2017, Available Here

[27] Id. at 26.

[28] Id. at27.


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Author: Saumya Singh

Saumya Singh is a law student from the University Institute of Legal Studies Panjab University.

2 thoughts on “Housewife Worth: Does It Count

  1. BK Singh

    Also include concept of house-husband.
    Although there is no regular payment to wife by earning husband, yet many properties being bought by husband in the name of wife.
    In our system, husband wife duo is a single entity; and conflicts among spouse create sense of insecurity in non-earning partner.
    What will impact on Indian economy, if salary is paid by spouse to his non-earning partner?

    Reply
  2. Saumyasingh

    Accrding to Delhi High verdict of 2018 it’s quite clear that any property bought in name of wife ,legally husband will be the owner of the property. And it’s not a system but a patriarch set up which can be mended once people will start accepting the real worth of women in the home. Conflict occurs when we try not to accept the changes, though I too have mentioned the ill effect of this system are applied on our women housewife. Economically it will have an astonishing effect nationally and globally -The report by Evangelical Society Action Forum and HealthBridge has calculated the value of unpaid work performed by women in India amounts at approx. US $612 billion dollars per year, and if their work would have been monetized and value of unpaid labour around the globe stand as $11 trillion.
    And concept of house- husband is quite a intersting topic to debate though I have limited research about it, but shurely like to work on it in future.

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