China court orders man to pay wife for housework in landmark caseon February 24, 2021 at 4:19 am

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The landmark case has sparked debate as it shines a spotlight on housewives’ unpaid labour.

Woman cleaning table

image copyrightGetty Images

A Beijing divorce court has ordered a man to compensate his wife for the housework she did during their marriage, in a landmark ruling.

The woman will receive 50,000 yuan ($7,700; £5,460) for five years of unpaid labour.

The case has generated a huge debate online over the value of domestic work, with some saying the compensation amount was too little.

The ruling comes after China’s introduction of a new civil code.

According to court records, the man identified by his surname Chen had filed for divorce last year from his wife, surnamed Wang, after getting married in 2015.

She was reluctant to a divorce at first, but later requested financial compensation, arguing that Chen had not shouldered any housework or childcare responsibilities for their son.

Beijing’s Fangshan District Court ruled in her favour, ordering him to pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan, as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she has done.

The presiding judge told reporters on Monday that the division of a couple’s joint property after marriage usually entails splitting tangible property. “But housework constitutes intangible property value,” said the judge.

The ruling was made according to the new civil code in the country, which came into effect this year. Under the new law, a spouse is entitled to seek compensation in a divorce if he or she bears more responsibility in child raising, caring for elderly relatives, and assisting partners in their work.

Previously, divorcing spouses could only request for such compensation if a prenuptial agreement had been signed – an uncommon practice in China.

On social media, the case sparked heated debate, with a related hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo viewed more than 570 million times.

Some social media users pointed out that 50,000 yuan for five years’ of work was too little. “I’m a bit speechless, the work of a full-time housewife is being underestimated. In Beijing, hiring a nanny for a year costs more than 50,000 yuan,” said one commenter.

Others pointed out that men should assume more household duties in the first place.

Some also called on women to continue pursuing their careers after marriage. “Ladies, remember to always be independent. Don’t give up work after marriage, give yourself your own way out,” wrote one social media user.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Chinese women spend nearly four hours a day on unpaid work – roughly 2.5 times that of men.

It is higher than the average in OECD countries, where women spend twice the amount of time as men on unpaid work.

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Two women in the UK share their stories of juggling senior jobs with unpaid caring responsibilities (video from 2019).

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