Should, or Would, Home-makers be Paid?

April 24, 2021

Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gift may henceforth be bestowed equally. I would we could do so, for her benefits are mightily misplaced, and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake in her gifts to women.
- William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatic poet in As You Like It.

The latest elections in some States resurrected the subject of compensating women for holding the home-front. Parties in Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu dangled the carrot of wages/pension for home-makers if voted to power. The subject which was on the backburner these past years suddenly found new life –especially in the media. Delhi-based Outlook weekly made a cover story on the subject (April 19, 2021), the lead story being written by Jyotika Sood and Lola Nayar, and selectively and briefly excerpted here.

Explaining her giving up a lucrative job, Gurgaon-based Ritu Lall after her daughter was born, says: “It’s out of love and affection for them (family) that I decided to give up my job. It is their appreciation that keeps me going and to reach another level. . . A salary would break the bridge that I have with my family…”

Representational image

Globally there has been a campaign since 1970s highlighting the need for women to be paid wages or compensation for homework as a means to help them to emerge from poverty and dependence. During UPA-II government, Krishna Tirath, then Union Women and Child Development Minister, had initiated discussion on how to quantify and remunerate the work of homemakers by their spouses. According to her, “A homemaker is a house engineer and ensures everything is in place and available when required.”

Tamil superstar Kamal Hassan was among the first during the recent election campaign to promise monthly fixed salaries for homemakers. Commending this, Shashi Tharoor, MP, said: “I welcome the idea of recognizing housework as a salaried profession…with the state government paying monthly wage to homemakers. This will recognize and monetize the services of women homemakers in society, enhance their power & create near-universal basic income.”

Renana Jhabvala, president of SEWA Bharat, representing self-employed women, says: “It could be a small amount of money that could be given every month to act as a floor income… It would act as good social security system and prevent them from sinking further and becoming desperate to take work at exploitative rates.”

Incidentally, the judiciary has been putting a monetary value on women. For instance, in December 2020, a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal cited a Supreme Court ruling to award compensation of Rs 17 lakhs to the husband and two minor children of a 33-years-old woman killed in a car crash in Maharashtra.

We started with Shakespeare on women. Now we conclude with him on the same subject.

I will be master of what is mine own;
She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;
And here she stands, touch her whoever dare.
- Shakespeare in Taming the Shrew.

The subject is open to many views and in the context of two time spans – Shakespearian time and today. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl scroll down).


Smartness can back-fire.

Thursdays in Mangaluru are power-cut days apparently for maintenance reasons. Since I had used-up my Jio internet quota for the day I was stuck and had to satisfy myself with counting the number of fortnightly topics I had published on this website courtesy Daiji elders and the latest figure is 21.This figure is significant in many ways including marriage for males.

But, there are age barriers beyond 21 for various reasons. For instance, many decades ago one needed “Health Permit” to buy/consume alcohol at home or pub (which was then called “Permit Room”). You had to apply for a health permit with a recommendation from a doctor and you had to be 40 years or older.

Armed with such a recommendation letter, I Q’ed up at the permit-giver’s window at Old Customs House in downtown Bombay. In front of me was a middle-aged person who submitted his papers. The clerk looked at the papers and the applicant and asked: “Are you forty?” The applicant said: “What do you think is my age? The clerk replied: “You look fifty”. Apparently upset, the permit seeker responded: “For your information I would be forty in six months.” Clerk: “Then come back after six months with your fresh application”.

Who said “Silence is golden” or “Hold your tongue”?


Also read:




By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Flavia, Mlore

    Thu, Apr 29 2021

    The reasons cited here by the author seem to be of "poverty" and "dependency'. In my opinion the homemaker is in poverty because the family is in poverty. Poverty as I see is not being able to meet the basic needs of life. Then it is the family poverty issue that needs to be targeted (not by giving fish but by making means and ability to fish available). If only the homemaker is in poverty then the issue is something else not poverty in itself and that's the issue that needs to get addressed. Dependency I think are in all relationships - no students no need of teacher; no customers no need of salesman.

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel, Mangaluru

    Thu, Apr 29 2021

    Mangalorian, Mangaluru: I am not a politician –though there is nothing wrong to be one – but a mediator of ideas thanks to the forum provided by Daiji elders. Still, I don’t see why the wedding ceremony should be a panic-filled time. Yes, in retrospect, I had reason to be panic-filled after the ceremony when I found that the hired photographer had nothing to show of the ceremony in the context of no cameras/ mobiles clicking unrestrained 52 years ago. The hired photographer had not loaded the film in his camera. Vasanti A Pereira, Bajpe: It was stimulating to read your well-argued comments. But, I am only an initiator and mediator and the forum is meant for readers to comment and interact. So, I invite readers to comment on your insightful comments before the article sinks into the Daiji archives. Thanks once again for your spirited comments.

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Thu, Apr 29 2021

    One wonders if one swallow makes a summer. If the uttering of a few words at the panic-filled time of a wedding ceremony is considered a binding contract, the world would not see a situation of 30-40% cases of termination of the marriages in many parts of the world. This article, so far as I can see, is about a 'majority' of cases. And not about one case in a million. After all, with the steadily increasing push from the opportunitic politicians, some monetary compensation to the home-duties-performing partner will be a reality some time in the future. The author does not appear to me to be such a politician.

  • Vasanti A Pereira (female, she, mother, senior),, Bajpe

    Wed, Apr 28 2021

    John, Sorry to hear you could not run this article through Lynette because she is no more. May her soul rest in peace ....... I still standby by my earlier message (26APR21) about our ancestors who developed great systems for us to live and grow (and that includes marriage – read carefully our Christian and Hindu marriage vows taken with God as the witness). If we fulfil these obligations without finding a meaning in them we do not need any wage for a homemaker. ……… So do we think we need to create a new wage system for homemakers when we have generation perfected systems in place which we need to simply follow? Both Hindu and Catholic marriage vows define the duties, responsibilities and obligations towards each other (Husband towards wife and wife towards husband). If this oath taken with God as the witness not suffice, what laws or payments would work or may be compiled with? And for/by whom?? If we are not afraid of oath taken in the presence of God what Govt. or law we may be afraid of……… Here is an article for you John and for all the readers (especially the commenters to this article)…….. Read slowly ….. Understand it……. And digest it……. Try and analyse if the article if it is indeed true …..And if what is written in the article did indeed happen amongst your siblings and your surroundings……

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel, Mangaluru

    Tue, Apr 27 2021

    Vasanti A Pereira (female, she, mother, senior), Bajpe: “Did the writer… ran this article… their wife…” Your’s is a touching and exemplary life story and it is there for any reader to read and digest and I am happy about your second honeymoon. It takes me back to the Biblical account of the wedding at Cana where Jesus, reluctantly obeying his mother, performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. But, what is apt here are the words of the Steward of the Feast who when he tasted the new wine said: “Everyone serves the good wine first and then the poor wine after the guests have become drunk: but you have kept the good wine until now” – (John2:10). Similarly, you have held back your best comments so far on this forum. So, I wouldn’t comment further on your response beyond this leaving the readers to taste and see. “Did the writer… ran this article through their wife?” I didn’t because Lynette passed away three years ago while undergoing her last test before discharge after a series of tests in a star hospital while an MRI was in progress. But, she evokes nostalgia on how cupid strikes. Setting aside how we fell in love and married, I brief readers on how cupid struck one generation earlier. My mother, Carmine, lived in a village called Kopla under the present Bellore parish. Her family grew extra-large vegetables which fetched premium prices. Across the bullock-cart road, in the adjoining village called Thodambil, lived my father, Hilary – both of marriageable age of those days. An uncle of Hilary was a frequent visitor to Carmine’s house to antice her parents to part with some seeds of the jumbo vegetables. But, they would not oblige because there was a belief that if you give away the seeds your own plants would be stunted. Then the visiting uncle set up a plot. He enticed the young, trusting Carmine and told her to keep some seeds in the large crevice of an ancient tree in the forest between the two villages. At Hilary’s end the uncle told him to go to the ancient tree and collect the seeds from its crevice. One thing led to another and, finally, Carmine and Hilary to the altar.

  • Vasanti A Pereira (female, she, mother, senior), Bajpe

    Mon, Apr 26 2021

    Read with interest "Should or Would Home-makers be Paid?" Disappointed no woman has commented/expressed their opinion on the article. So here I am with my opinion. Do any of you (author and readers) remember your marriage vows ?????? If not, please go and read your marriage vows again where you vowed to share everything of each other ("for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law, in the presence of God I make this vow"). When this article was published, my husband asked me to read this article together because the article concerned women. After reading this article, my first question was "did the writer/commenters ran this article through their wife". Anyone want to tell us their opinion????? As woman do I need a wage; here is how I see it: I decided to be a homemaker (1979) and have remained so. We made sure not to forget our marital vows: he as the bread-earner (initially in Gulf and later in North America) and me everything else but we made it a point to be honest and trust each other completely. Never asked him for salary ever as all the bank passbooks and cheque books were with me while he was toiling in Gulf to put bread and butter on the table. Together we grew the family and wealth. Now we are retired and happy like it was in 1979 and this is our second honeymoon everyday/every night like it was in 1979. And everything we earned is ours till we die. PS: Now my husband runs our accounts and shares the financial status every month. And do you know, he has told me and kids that 60% of what we have is mine when I want, because he understands my share of the work in helping the family grow and succeed was much more than his. Being honest with each other, trusting, sharing and holding each other every night is THE WAGE and BONUS. But be patient till 70 for payoff. Our ancestors set-up the marriage contract and let us all honour it, don't mess it up.

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel, Mangaluru

    Mon, Apr 26 2021

    Welcome and thank you early birds. Rohan, Mangalore: Your reference to biometric recognition identification cards is a relevant time update on the subject. Mohan Prabhu, Ottawa: You have added a whole lot of relevant dimensions on the subject and your questions open many valid points. Vir, Nagpur: You add a refreshingly new angle. Mangalorian, Mangalore: You are right in questioning why government should pay. The scenario you have painted in the regime where men have to pay is very imaginative and hilarious. Joe, Mangalore: You have made an interesting and valid point that many women are barred from taking outside jobs to ensure captive free service on the home front.

  • Joe, Mangalore

    Sun, Apr 25 2021

    I agree home makers should be paid, but not by governments, but the earning family members, whom they take care of, because I know for sure many educated women are stopped by their in laws and husbands from pursuing their careers after marriage.

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Sun, Apr 25 2021

    Thank you Mr Monteiro for another interesting article. Other commenters here have expressed some very pertinent views on the matter. The Governments in India (Central and State/UT) have hardly any spare money. Imagine the amount needed (that is, if the Government is to pay the 'wages') for this exercise. With this money coming in, 90% of the women will be dissuaded from doing any work 'outside'. Now imagine what will happen to the labour cost of farms, micro-businesses, even small businesses that had depended on this 'cheaper' labour! They will go bust. If the husbands are required to pay, I can actually see a very positive outcome: many young men will keep postponing their marriage until they turn 70, and slow down India's population growth. Married women will be happy of course. They can now sit on the couch and get back to the 'friend requests on Facebook' 365 days a year.

  • Veer, Nagpur

    Sat, Apr 24 2021

    Both husband and wife are working and contributing for one common cause so there should be equal respect and recognition to each other from both sides.

  • mohan prabhu, Mangalore/Kankanady. Ottawa/Canada

    Sat, Apr 24 2021

    John, You are entering a controversial territory that has made a 180 degree turn since Shakespeare, and now housewife or homemaker claims not only what is hers but what is her husband's too, at least half the share of that so he cannot spend it as he likes. Politicians like Tharoor are demagogues, out to please women for their vote bank. They hardly gave a thought to what they say (or the ramifications). One should ask: .1. What are the tax implications? Where will the government get the money to pay salaries? From every taxpayer? Isn't that indirectly paying according to one's means - the richer will pay more... 2. Is there a ceiling, based on other income of the home maker or housewife? 3. Is it a joint income where husband (especially where he is a "bum") can claim? 5. If a joint income tax return is filed, how would the tax obligations be calculated? Are there special reservations, for SC/ST for example? What are the implications of a break-up, death of the husband? (divorce/inheritance). Is that independent of her wealth? These are some of the questions that occur to me.

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sat, Apr 24 2021

    Very well written article and I agree in toto with the proposal to compensate the homemaker. If you applied for permit today it would have been linked to all the biometric recognition identifications cards issued including fastag which will help catch drunken driving...

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