In a landmark decision, a Chinese divorce court has ordered a husband to pay his wife more than US$7,700 in compensation for the housework she performed during five years of marriage.
The court in Beijing said this week that the husband was obligated to compensate his wife because housework carries intangible property value and should be considered an asset, according to Chinese news reports.
The decision comes amid global debate about whether societies should do more to recognize and compensate women for work they perform at home. Studies show that in many countries, women shoulder a disproportionate burden of household labor, hindering their ambitions and career opportunities.
While some commentators in China hailed the case as a breakthrough, many people said the compensation was inadequate, noting that full-time nannies in China earn far more.
This is so unfair to women, wrote one user on Weibo, a microblogging site. A hashtag about the case had been viewed more than 570 million times as of late Wednesday. Let's see who dares be a housewife, said another.
Women perform an average of two hours and six minutes of housework each day in China, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with 45 minutes for men.
Chinese women, who have long endured discrimination at home and in the workplace, have pushed in recent years for better wages and fairer treatment. Activists have led campaigns against domestic violence, and a MeToo movement has spread in the country.
The legal system has become a focus of many complaints, because regulations make it difficult for women to obtain divorces and protect assets.
The couple married in 2015. The divorce was initiated last year by the husband, who was identified only by a surname, Chen, according to news reports. The wife, whose last name is Wang, had been taking care of the couple's son after she and her husband started living apart in 2018.
Wang requested that the couple's assets be equally divided and argued that she should be compensated for housework and child care, since she said her husband did not perform those duties, according to news reports. The case is now undergoing appeal, though it is unclear which party initiated the appeal.