Woman awarded $7,700 for five years of housework in China divorce ruling | China

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.

Under a new civil code that came into effect last month, a person may seek compensation from their partner during a divorce if they were the primary carer for children or elderly parents, or did most of the unpaid household work. The amount should be negotiated, but if that fails then it will be decided by court.

A Beijing court ruled the husband, surnamed Chen, must pay his now ex-wife, Wang, the sum of 50,000 yuan for not pulling his weight around the house.

Chen left the childrearing to Wang while he went to work, and “didn’t care about or participate in any kind of chores”, Wang told the court.

The couple had married in 2015 but separated three years later. Their son lived with Wang. Chen filed for divorce last year but Wang was initially reluctant, local media said. She later agreed and requested a division of property and financial compensation. As well as the 50,000 yuan compensation, Wang was also awarded custody of the couple’s son and a monthly payment of 2,000 yuan.

The presiding judge, Feng Miao, said the division of property related to “tangible property”, of which it was impossible to include housework. Housework “for example, can improve the ability of the other spouse to achieve personal, individual academic growth, and this is not reflected in the tangible property.”

The case is believed to be the first to set a monetary value on housework since the civil code – which covers personal rights and family and contract law – came into force.

The verdict sparked a debate on social media in China about the financial worth of housework, which, in heterosexual relationships and marriage, is most often done by women, according to multiple surveys. Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics indicated married women spent more than twice as much time on housework than their husbands in 2016, a ratio wider than figures recorded for 1996.

More than 427,000 people responded to an online poll by Chinese media outlet, Pheonix Weekly, which asked if the compensation was right, wrong, too small, or too big. Almost 94% said it was right but not enough, with commenters saying it underestimated the job of stay-at-home wives and mothers. Some quoted an increasingly popular idiom: “to keep yourself, don’t get married or give birth”.

“Everyone who has done housework knows that doing housework is no easier than going to work, it’s often harder,” said one Weibo user commenting underneath.

“The key thing about being a full-time wife is that you lose your career growth opportunities,” said another. “After a while, your future career will be discounted a lot, and there is no way to measure this with money.”