Issue-Wages for Housework
The demand for ‘wages for housework’ arose in the context of struggle and consciousness-raising associated with the Second Wave of the women’s movement in North America and Europe. The International Wages for Housework Campaign started in Italy in 1972 under Selma James. It was based on the premise that housework was the basis of industrial work and should be duly paid for.Alongside other demands for social and political equality, women’s rights campaigners made visible and also politicised women’s everyday experience of housework and child care in the ‘private’ realm of the household.
- Recently, the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), led by veteran actor Kamal Haasan, has made an eye-catching election promise that is evidently targeted at a large constituency of voters — women who are full-time homemakers. The party has promised to recognise housework as a salaried profession by paying homemakers ‘hitherto unrecognized and unmonetized’ for their work at home.
- A report published by the International Labour Organization in 2018 shows that, 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%.
- 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. In a report, the International Monetary Fund also suggested that if women’s participation in the economy was raised to that of men, then India could grow its GDP by 27 per cent.
Arguments in Favour:
- They challenge the assumption that a ‘natural’ affinity for housework was rooted in the essential nature of women who were performing a ‘labour of love’.Recognising and Monetising housework will ensure gender justice.
- By providing free services in the home,women made possible the survival of working-class households at subsistence-level wages, with obvious benefits for industry and capital.
- The wage that the state would pay women would make them autonomous of the men on whom they were dependent.
- There are women who perform ‘women’s work’ but in other people’s homes. They are, therefore, uniquely positioned to make this work visible and demand that its conditions be regulated, minimum wages guaranteed, and the workers’ status and rights protected.
- While the global value of unpaid domestic labour by women hovers around 13 per cent, in India, the number is almost 40 per cent of its current GDP. In recognising this labour as genuine work, the benefit to India in terms of its GDP figures is almost self-evident.
- Paying salaries for housework could help build respect for domestic labour, and give women dignity, recognition and independence.
- Venezuela pays its homemakers 80% of the minimum wage (approximately $180 per month) since 2006. Though it is a modest sum, it has been helping women in the country.
- ‘Wages for housework’ would only imprison women further within the household, increase their social isolation and dissuade men from sharing housework.
- Others too argued that the goal of the women’s movement must be, to not ask for wages, but to free women from the daily drudgery of routine domestic chores and enable them to participate fully in all spheres of social life, including paid employment outside the household.