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Housework Is Worth One Seventh Of The Average Wage

Such an honest face there

The Guardian is loving this ruling from China where a housewife is, upon divorce, awarded compensation for all the housework she did. There are reasons to think this may or may not be fair but let’s run with the feminist argument that it is. There should be a value put on this domestic work.

They’re not then going to like the answer – it’s not worth very much:

A Chinese divorce court has ordered a man to pay his wife the equivalent of US $7,700 as compensation for housework during their five-year marriage.

They why it’s unfair is that clearly she also gained from the fact that the housework was done, so too the childcare. Further, she presumably gained from the income he made while he was out doing market work. But leave all that aside.

The award is of 50,000 yuan for 5 years work. The average wage in China (and this is skewed because it’s a big place with highly variable wage levels) is:

In 2019, an employee in the urban regions of the Chinese Hebei province earned around 72,956 yuan per annum on average. The national average reached about 90,501 yuan in 2019.

So, one year of housework is worth 10,000 yuan, or between a seventh and a ninth of one year of market work.

Which is going to cause those feminists to spit teeth in their rage. Yes, domestic work has value – it’s just not very much.

There’s good theoretical reasoning behind this too. A commission of the Great and the Good looked at this as the Sarkozy Commission. It included two Nobel Laureates, Jow Stiglitz and Amartya Sen. Domestic labour has value but it’s “the general undifferentiated labour rate” or, as we might more normally call it, the minimum wage.

The reason being the division and specialisation of labour from our old friend Adam Smith. When we go out into the market we are – at the limit – specialising and dividing that labour between 7 billion people. This raises the productivity of that labor considerably. Unless your household is exceedingly more exciting than mine the division is going to be between two people within said household. This means that the productivity of that labour is going to be rather low.

Low productivity labour gets paid less than high such.

It is indeed true that domestic work is worth something. It’s just that the something isn’t very much.

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David
David
1 month ago

Would it depend on how good the house was? If I were doing all the housework that would be a high salary (I wouldn’t spend long on it) but for some people it would be a very low salary.

dodgy geezer
dodgy geezer
1 month ago

The operation of a modern oven/microwave/dishwasher/robot vacuum cleaner demands a skill level comparable to a machinist in a 1940s factory. And also really requires the oversight of a Health and Safety representative….

jgh
jgh
1 month ago

Another way of saying that housework is worth one seventh of the minimum wage is that housework takes up no more than the equivalent of one seventh of the time of a working day. 50 minutes a day going around with the vacuum cleaner and washing the pots? yeah gods, how crap are they? Takes me about ten minutes to do the pots, and I do about 30mins vacuuming once a week while waiting for the washing machine to finish. And, as always, the answer to this is: if you don’t want to do any housework, don’t do any housework… Read more »

Spike
Spike
1 month ago

So what happens to the housewifery industry if gov’t insists that it is paid employment and takes a position on pay scales? Do feminists flock to the Capitol to demand more money? What happens to supply and demand? Do husbands opt to cook for themselves? Who owes whom what for sex?

Boganboy
Boganboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Spike

Obviously then 90% of men can’t afford to marry, or even simply shack up.

Plainly the demand will then be for the 90% to be taxed for at least 10 times their income, to pay the poor women at least a small part of what they deserve.

Spike
Spike
1 month ago
Reply to  Boganboy

In fact, this is just one more minimum wage, always sold as securing a raise for a lot of people, but in practice just criminalizing existing relationships (unless set low enough to have no effect at all.)

jgh
jgh
1 month ago
Reply to  Boganboy

Wait on a mo, what’s this “woman” thing here? Who’s going to pay me to do my housework?

Wheels
Wheels
1 month ago

This will be used by the lawyers and the low amount is the ante. It will go up quickly. A pre-nup agreement will soon become standard.

john77
john77
1 month ago

The logic of the award is that it is worth *two*-sevenths of the average wage because, as you point out, he is one of two beneficiaries so he only has to pay half the cost. We then get onto the questions of the quality and the amount of time involved. Before I got married I did all the housework for a clean, albeit untidy, two-bedroom flat in the spare time from a job that took at least 50 hours a week (sometimes more) and being Hon Treasurer of half-a-dozen charities (oh, and doing some training to run a few marathons).… Read more »

Spike
Spike
1 month ago
Reply to  john77

Well, sure, if gov’t is going to dictate the value of housewifery, it must eventually rule on how well it must be done (or has been done).

asiaseen
asiaseen
1 month ago
Reply to  Spike

Cue another quango; The Housework Inspectorate

john77
john77
1 month ago
Reply to  Spike

The ruling comes from the Chinese Communist Party, so it will doubtless rule that all housework that is done in accordance with the dictates of Mao’s little red book is good and all else is inferior. I assume that you projecting from “1984” where every room in every house (except for high-ranking party members) had a two-way mirror so that the party could spy on everything including how well the floor had been swept. If that happens then it will become widely known that housework, to an adequate standard, can be done in a hour or two per day. Before… Read more »

Spike
Spike
1 month ago
Reply to  john77

So gov’t intervention into the “market” for in-family services will lead to greater understanding that obviates the intervention? I’ll always take the other side of that bet!

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