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Should There Be Wages for Housework?

Synopsis- MNM led by Kamal Haasan promised to recognize HouseWorksEfforts by historical movement to provide wages for HouseWorks, highlighted many challenges in doing that.   

Background- 

  • Makkal Needhi Maiam MNM, led by its founder Kamal Haasan has promised that homemakers will get their due recognition through payment for their house works which hitherto has been unrecognized and unmonitored.  
  • According to International Labour Organizationwomen perform 76.2 per cent of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men.  This figure rises to 80% in Asia and the Pacific.  
  • The debate around wages for housework remained unresolved within the women’s campaign- ‘wages for housework movement’. 

What is wages for housework movement? 

The International Wages for Housework Campaign started in Italy in 1972 as a feminist movement that highlighted the role of gendered labour in the home and its connection to the production of surplus value under capitalism. The movement further spread to Britain and America.  

Though women’s work helps men to be productive, this contribution is largely unnoticed. It is extremely difficult to quantify how much women contribute to the economy with their unsung work but it would run into the billions or beyond. 

What were the hurdles faced in demand of wages for housework? 

 ‘Wages for housework’ would only imprison women further within the household as- 

  • Paid housework would reinforce gendered division of roles, keeping women in their traditional role of wife and mother.  
  • A salary would isolate women from the community and prevent men from sharing housework.
  • A salary would legitimize their oppression. 

Thus, the idea behind women’s movement should be made them free from daily domestic chores and allow them to participate in social sphere and further including paid employment outside the household.   

What are the issues that need to resolve before providing wages for housework? 

Though MNM has made a promise, but there are few important questions or challenges that need to answered to make it look feasible; 

  • Once salaried, housework would be controlled in terms of number of hours, quality of work, and so on. Who would exercise this control and under what terms? 
  • Would it include women only, who are full-time homemakers?
  • What about women workers who earn an income from home by stitching clothes, selling cooked meals or are engaged in petty trade and identified a ‘Housewives’?  

These issues cannot solve easily. Therefore, the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) an unconditional cash payment to low income households and should be transfer directly to women. 

Way forward- 

Women constitute almost half the population and their needs and issues have to be addressed.  

  • Paid domestic works are done predominantly by women in other’s houses. Thus, a National legislation for domestic workers containing guarantees foe minimum wages, and the workers’ status and rights should be enacted. 
  • The demand of women domestic workers in Tamilnadu address the issue of value of housework in their demands i.e. an hourly minimum wage, a weekly day-off, an annual bonus. 
  • Thus, all political parties must seriously consider their demands as will be helpful in asserting the dignity of housework and making it a visible and valued form of labour. 
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