A man has been ordered to compensate his wife for the housework she completed during their marriage by a divorce court in China.
The husband, identified only by his surname Chen, filed for divorce in 2020 after marrying his wife, with the surname Wang, in 2015. Wang had not wanted to divorce at first, but later requested financial compensation for taking on the majority of housework and childcare duties between them.
Beijing’s Fangshan District Court ruled in her favour, and ordered Chen to pay his ex-partner 50,000 yuan (around £5,500) for five years of unpaid labour. He will also pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan (about £218).
The ruling comes after the introduction of a new civil code in China, which allows a spouse to seek financial compensation during a divorce if there was an imbalance in their domestic duties.
Previously, financial compensation of this kind could only be requested if a prenuptial agreement had been signed, which is an uncommon practice in China.
Feng Miao, the presiding judge, said the division of property between Chen and Wang related to ‘tangible property’, of which it was impossible to include housework.
He told reporters that housework constituted ‘intangible property value’, which could ‘improve the ability of the other spouse to achieve personal, individual academic growth’.
The case is believed to be the first time a monetary value has been set on housework since the civil code came into force this year. However, the amount of money Wang will receive has sparked widespread debate online.
Despite celebrating the first use of the code, critics have noted that the amount of money Wang will receive is too low.
A poll on Chinese media outlet Phoenix Weekly found that almost 94% of their 427,000 participants said the compensation was right, but not enough.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that Chinese women spend nearly four hours a day on unpaid work, which is roughly 2.5 times that the amount completed by men.
One person commented on Weibo: ‘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.’
Another added: ‘The key thing about being a full-time wife is that you lose your career growth opportunities. After a while, your future career will be discounted a lot, and there is no way to measure this with money.’
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