From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Idea of universal basic income
Mains level : Paper 2- Remuneration to women for domestic work and issues with it
Recently, a political party promised salaries to housewives as a part of its electoral campaign in Tamil Nadu. This led to the debate on the issue. The article deals with the issue.
Salary for housework: Historical background
- Demand for wages against housework was first raised at the third National Women’s Liberation conference in Manchester, England.
- 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.
- The purpose, once again, was to empower women financially and help them live with dignity.
Recognising the value of unpaid domestic work
- Time-use data from 2019 gathered by the National Sample Survey Organisation revealed that 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.
- Housework demands effort and sacrifice, 365 days a year, 24/7.
Issues with paying for domestic work
- 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.
- There is a risk of formalising the patriarchal Indian family where the position of men stems from their being “providers” in the relationship.
- Despite a legal provision, equal inheritance rights continue to be elusive for a majority of women.
- More than creating a new provision of salary for housework, we need to strengthen awareness, implementation and utilisation of other existing provisions.
- Starting from the right to reside in the marital home, to streedhan and haq meher, to coparcenary and inheritance rights as daughters and to basic services, free legal aid and maintenance in instances of violence and divorce.
- Women should be helped to reach their full potential through quality education, access and opportunities of work, gender-sensitive and harassment-free workplaces and attitudinal and behaviour change within families to make household chores more participative.
Just like we do not want women to commodify their reproductive services because of their inherently exploitative nature — we have, therefore, banned commercial surrogacy in the country — let us not allow commodification of housework and personal care.