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Husband ordered to pay ex-wife $9.7k for housework

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Cropped shot of a young woman cleaning the floor with a cloth at home during the day
It sets a new precedent for the country. Image: Getty

A Chinese court has ordered a husband to pay his former wife AU$9,718 for housework completed during their marriage, declaring that housework has an “intangible property value”, and as such should be considered an asset.

The couple married in 2015 with the divorce initiated by the husband last year. The couple had been living apart since 20108, with the wife, named Wang, taking care of their son.

Wang had requested the divorce court grant her half of the couple’s assets, arguing that the value of child care and housework should also be factored into the calculations.

Judge Feng Miao ruled that Wang was entitled to 50,000 yuan in compensation for her housework. Over five years of marriage, that valuation works out to be around AU$5.44 a day.

Wang will also be paid a monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan (AU$389.50).

The ruling reflects a new Chinese civil code which came into effect this year. Under the code, divorced spouses are entitled to seek compensation if they have shouldered more unpaid work like child care, care for elderly family members and housework. Before the new code, this compensation was only available under a prenuptial agreement.

However, local media have reported that Wang was seeking a much higher 160,000 yuan in compensation (AU$31,156) in compensation.

The case has triggered furious debate, with a hashtag on the case gathering more than 570 million views on Weibo and 22,000 discussions.

While some advocates welcomed the decision as appreciating the value of women’s work, others noted that it pales in comparison to what a professional nanny would be charged for carrying out the same tasks.

Chinese women carry out an average two hours and six minutes of housework daily, compared to 45 minutes for men, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reports.

What’s happening closer to home?

In Australia, women also spend more time managing the household and in childcare.

Almost 45 per cent of women with children spent more than five hours a week supervising them, while more than 33 per cent spent 20 hours a week.

In comparison, 32 per cent of Australian men spent more than five hours in a childcare role, and only 17 per cent spent more than 20 hours a week, the latest Bureau of Statistics data has shown.

This doesn’t change when women are also in paid employment.

In households with no dependent children, women were doing 16.3 hours of housework a week, while men were doing 12.3 hours on average – even when they were earning the same amount, according to the 2019 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The HILDA survey defines housework as errands like shopping, banking, paying bills, preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning the house, ironing and outdoor tasks including repairs, painting, gardening and maintenance.

When women were the main breadwinners they were doing 17.6 hours of housework a week while men were doing 16.2 hours.

And when it comes to childcare, women are putting in significantly more hours of work a week regardless of the earnings dynamic in the couple.

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