Trends in Housework valuation

Synopsis: The work women perform for the family should be given due recognition and valued at par with a men’s work. 


Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam party recently promised salaries for housewives as a part of the party’s election manifesto, has invigorated the discussion on the acknowledgment of domestic work as work. 

Read more – Wages for housework: An Analysis – ForumIAS Blog 

State of household work in India 

159.85 million Women stated household work as their main occupation whereas only 5.79 men referred to it as their main occupation in the 2011 census. 

  • As per Time Use in India-2019 Report, Indian women spend 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members. Whereas men spend just 97 minutes. 
  • The economic value of services provided by women is equivalent to making $612.8 billion annually.   

Global trends on the recognition of housework 

Male and female domains have been marked separately for centuries. Market is considered as a male domain whereas home is considered as a female domain. These segregations justified husband’s control over family assets. 

  • Until 1851, Women had no right over their own earnings in or out of the home, all over the world. Their wages used to be collected by husband as it was considered his right back then. 
  • Shortly after 1850, laws in US started allowing wives with property rights on earnings from their personal labour. 
  • However, after civil war economic census in US, household worked were tagged as unproductive. It also excluded earning of women engaged in income producing work. 

Trends in India 

  • The Married Women (Protection of Rights) Bill, 1994 provided that a married woman shall be authorised to have an equal share in the property of her husband. It also provided women with a right to dispose of her share in the property by way of sale, gift, debt, will or in any other manner. 
  • Census 2001 which had categorised those who provide household services i.e., about 36 crore women in India as non-workers. 
  • The United Progressive Alliance government had suggested a monthly ‘salary’ for wife by her husband in 2012.  
  • Supreme Court in Rajendra Singh case, 2020 observed that the services offered out of love cannot be calculated with money. 

Way forward 

  • There should be measurement and quantification of unpaid domestic activities of women. Their calculation in GDP so that the actual economic contribution of women is highlighted. the United Nations committee on elimination of discrimination against women. 

Women on one hand are denied equal rights and on the other hand are compared to goddesses in our country. Matrimonial property laws do give women their share but only when the marriage is broken and so there should be a bill to safeguard women’s interest even during the marriage.

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