Should Husbands Pay Their Wives?



Here’s the thing… this news has been mightily discussed and hauled around in forums and blogs.

The gist of the proposal by Ms Krishna Tirath is this…

Housewives may soon start getting monthly salaries from their husbands with the government mulling a proposal which would make it mandatory for men to share a certain percentage of their income with their wives who stay back and do household chores.The proposal is being considered by Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry for socio-economic empowerment of homemakers.

Now, let me tell you straight away what I think of it… as a woman. I think it is absolute bull-crap. It is a proposal which seems to have not gone through the basic stages of discussion or a consideration of the consequences.


I am all for the empowerment of women, and also their financial independence.  But, in my opinion what Ms Tirath suggests is just not the way to go about it.

Now, I am not of the opinion that paying a house-wife / homemaker for the work she does is degrading in any way. Household chores, like everything else, are jobs to do and quite hard work too. Managing a household may not require one to be a MBA graduate but it takes a high level of skills both managerial and technical, not to mention the amount of planning and foresight that goes in to it. It IS a tough job.

But before I go further and blab my views on the matter, let me clarify the housewife vs. homemaker terminology debate.

I know a lot of you think homemaker is a stupid term.

But, the point here is all sorts of job oriented nouns, doers, are generally non gender-specific. Now, wives staying at home and doing the household chores were termed housewives at a time when the women of the world were largely confined to doing that. There were rarely any men doing that job. But, in today’s age there are both men and women who do take up the job of household chores and responsibilities… so like every other profession which is not dominated by a single gender, the naming convention change to ‘homemaker’ makes sense.

Like there are no doctresses, teacheresses, officeresses, engineresses… and like how actress is actually an abomination of the word actor…. there really is no need for the term housewife.

Now that it’s cleared… coming back to the original proposal, my biggest questions to these lawmakers is that how are they planning to implement the proposal?

If they go about doing it the way such that a husband shares a percentage of his income with his wife for her work, I don’t see how it makes the economic situation of the house any better or how it makes the woman independent and empowered.  The gross income remaining the same, the household economy is not changed.  Most responsible husbands, in my belief, would share the running costs of the household with their wives anyway… if that isn’t the case, then this sort of a scheme is not going to improve the husband-wife equation of those households. The law will only become a pain for those unfortunate women who haven’t had the fortune of a good education and therefore aren’t able to work in the professional world. This would only reflect badly on the already murky marriage market.

Some of the other questions which arise of this rather unfortunate proposal, the ones which are listed here are from The Nawaab’s blog (I have marked in parentheses, points I disagree with or only partially agree with)…

  1. Are you suggesting an Employee / Employer relationship for the married couple?

  2. Who is going to decide on the working hours and job description?

  3. Will the ministry approve of an employer’s demand for a probation period for fresh recruits?

  4. Does the remuneration include sexual services or is that to be treated independent from the ‘scope of work’?

  5. If the above is included in the ‘scope of work’ then who will determine if the husband should pay the wife or the wife should pay the husband?

  6. If a husband takes his wife out for shopping or a movie, would the ministry endorse the husband’s right to demand a taxi fare from the wife?

  7. Would Krishna also include in the proposal that the wife and children pay for boarding / lodging?

  8. In case the employer is not satisfied with the services, is he entitled to terminate his wife’s employment and seek suitable replacement i.e. without going through the divorce proceedings and just ‘hiring’ a more competent wife under a new employment contract to replace his earlier employee?

  9. What is the ministry’s position on employing ‘another wife’ on a temporary basis to cope with the increased work load during holidays or festivals?

  10. By equating the housewife’s status to that of a housekeeper/maid/nanny/prostitute, does Krishna really believe she is working for ‘development and welfare’???

  11. Paying a woman to take care of her children and her house?! Is that REALLY something the ministry wishes to promote? (as you see from my previous comments I am not against women being paid for this, as I mentioned, IT is a difficult job – Surya)

  12. IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF A BETTER QUALITY OF STANDARD OF LIVING FOR THE HOUSEHOLD?

Link to the whole article here.

I have some questions too…

  1. How the salary will be fixed?

  2. Will there be performance evaluations?

  3. Is a job-profile going to be chalked out?

  4. Would extra services be charged extra?

  5. And would the wife’s salary by subject to TDS?

I have a slightly different version of the proposal, which I feel would benefit the women more than this husband – wife employment scheme. Let the government work out a method in which they evaluate the households economically and they give the housewives / homemakers an allowance.  This totally skips the husband as a middleman and is a direct deal between the people who want the housewives to be empowered and the housewives. In my opinion, this would not only help the women be independent, it will also improve the general quality of life in households which otherwise manage with meager means. Thus, both targets of economic upliftment and female empowerment would be achieved. Of course, checks and balances are required to see that the allowance is used for the intended purposes and does not end up in the tummy of some alcoholic husband.

Would love to know your comments and opinions.

© Surya Murali

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