House wives should be paid £30,000 a year

// 20 February 2008

Researchers have calculated that unpaid labour by housewives (and, we must presume, househusbands) is worth an average of £29,771.56 a year, reports the Daily Mail.

They broke down the costs according to the average wages paid to professionals for tasks such as getting children dressed and ready for school, feeding them, helping with homework and getting them ready for bed.

A nanny working the same hours would earn £36.40, based on an average hourly wage of £8.

And adding up the value of tasks that would be carried out by chambermaids, accountants, chefs and mystery shoppers, the study came up with a total of £29,771.56 – several thousand above the national average wage.

I think this is a useful exercise, in that it demonstrates the scale of unpaid labour carried out by women. However, I’m not 100% convinced of the idea of actually setting up some kind of wage system – imagine the problems of having your partner as your boss! I can’t imagine it would be particularly healthy for the relationship.

If the working partner decided that the one that stayed at home had inadequately cleaned the oven, for example, would they withhold wages? How would that further embed ideas about women’s duty to be a sort of domestic goddess? And would it put pressure on women to stay in the home when they don’t necessarily want to (“Why do you want that job when you could be paid for washing my socks?”)

Image from Kimmick, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Danielle // Posted 20 February 2008 at 9:47 pm

I’m actually rather stunned that this came from the Daily Mail. And they even thought to include paperwork talking to bankers and bill paying, something traditionally designated to the male of the household…

“A further 39 minutes a day is spent trawling through the family’s finances – working out how much money the family has to spend for the month, paying bills, going through bank statements and liaising with banks, building societies and mortgage providers.”

I mean, it doesn’t make up for the other 99% of their sexist, racist, homophobic, etc, content, but it’s a bloody start!

James // Posted 20 February 2008 at 11:52 pm

Don’t forget that there is another side to this coin and that housewives do receive unwaged income, which is why the term unpaid labour is a bit misleading. It is paid for, in basically any goods from rent to food to luxury items housewive get from their partners income – you can tell this is conditional upon their efforts because if they didn’t do the work and the relationship broke down they’d find this income cut off. You can do the same exercise in reverse and put a value on unwaged income too.

Lots of women are in exactly the situation you speculate about.

Ben // Posted 24 February 2008 at 3:29 pm

James seems to be defending an add line – assuming that people consciously agree the link between the work done at home and the bed, board and ‘luxury items’. Of course, it was only a few decades ago that it was not unusual for many men to hand over their pay packet to their wife. (I heard of one bloke who didn’t know how much he earned – his wife got the unopened pay packet).

How does this square up with the government seemingly trying to get everybody into work?

And – purely selfishly – often people say there should be ‘government money’ (i.e. public money) to pay this. I live on my own so would I get a share? What’s actually needed is a more equitable split of money in relationships, isn’t it? And a social change that doesn’t say “just housework” but values it.

And, is it me, or is the term ‘housewife’ – and, indeed, ‘househusband’ -appalling?

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