A man has been ordered to compensate his wife for the housework she did during their marriage after a landmark ruling in China.
The Beijing divorce court ruled that the woman shall receive 50,000 yuan (around £5,460) in exchange for five years of unpaid labour.
The presiding judge said that the division of a couple’s joint property after marriage usually entails splitting tangible property.
“But housework constitutes intangible property value,” said the judge.
China’s new civil code
The court ruling was made in accordance with China’s new civil law code that came into effect in January 2021.
The code entitles a spouse to seek compensation from their partner during a divorce if they bear more domestic responsibility, which can include raising a child and caring for elderly relatives.
Previously, spouses going through divorce could only request such compensation if a prenuptial agreement had been signed - a practice that is uncommon in China.
According to the court records, the woman, surnamed Wang, married her husband, surnamed Chen, in 2015. They began to live separately in 2018, with their son living with his mother.
Mr Chen filed for divorce in 2020, and Ms Wang was reluctant at first. But, later, she requested financial compensation, arguing that Chen had not shouldered any housework or childcare responsibilities for their son.
Ruling in her favour, Beijing’s Fangshan District Court directed the husband to pay Ms Wang monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan (£218), as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she did during their marriage.
The ruling has sparked a heated debate on social media about domestic labour’s financial value, which in a hetrosexual relationship is mostly shouldered by the woman, according to multiple surveys.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Chinese women spend nearly four hours a day on unpaid work, around 2.5 times more than men.