A Chinese man in Beijing’s Fangshan district was ordered by a court to pay $7,700 /50,000 yuan/£5,460 as ‘housework compensation’ to his ex-wife who carried out the work during their five year marriage, sparking a heated debate in China.

Ex-wife Wang told the court that during the five years of marriage she “looked after the child and managed household chores, while (her husband) Chen did not care about or participate in any other household affairs besides going to work”. She filed a claim for extra compensation for housework and childcare duties, according to a Feb 4 court statement.

The court has ruled in her favour, ordering him to pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan, as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she has done.

The trending hashtag “stay-at-home wife receives 50,000 yuan housework compensation” had gained over 570 million views on the Twitter-like platform Weibo by Wednesday.

“Women should never be stay-at-home wives… when you divorce, you are left with nothing whatsoever. 50,000 yuan in housework compensation is bullshit,” read one comment.

“A full-time nanny could cost more than this for half a year, are women’s youth and feelings this cheap?” read another.

“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.”

The payout amount reflected the length of time the couple were married plus “the effort Wang put into housework, Chen’s income and the local cost of living”, according to one of the judges, quoted Monday in local media.

Under the country’s new civil code, which came into effect on Jan 1 this year, divorcing spouses have the right for the first time to request compensation if they bore more responsibilities at home.

Long Jun, an associate law associate professor at Tsinghua University, told China Central Television on Tuesday that people who spend too much energy on household chores will face difficulties in looking for a jobs again after divorce, adding such a compensation will contribute to their job seeking search. But some people disagreed, saying 50,000 yuan for the woman was too low.

Marriage breakups have surged over the last two decades in China as divorce laws were liberalized and women became more financially independent — to the concern of Beijing, which is trying to boost birth rates in an ageing population.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Chinese women spend nearly four hours a day on unpaid work – roughly 2.5 times that of men.

Jenny Smith, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

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