[Editorial Analysis] Basic income and patriarchy

Mains Paper 1: Society
Prelims level: International Wages for Housework Campaign
Mains level: Role of women and associated issues and Social empowerment


• Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that household work is no mean feat and fixing notional income for a non-earning “homemaker is a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals”.


• In India, an application by the National Housewives Association, seeking recognition as a trade union in 2010, was rejected on the ground that housework is not a trade or an industry.

• In 2012, the then minister for Women and Child development announced that the government was considering mandating a salary for housework to wives, from husbands. However, the proposal never materialized and with the change in the government in 2014, the idea was put to rest.


• Demand for wages against housework was first raised at the third National Women’s Liberation conference in Manchester, England.

• International Wages for Housework Campaign (IWFHC) was formed by Selma James in 1972. Since then, several organisations, particularly in the UK, US, Canada and Italy, have raised similar requests.


• A large number of women live with domestic violence and cruelty because they are economically dependent on others, mainly their husbands.

• Time-use data from 2019 gathered by the National Sample Survey Organisation revealed that only about a quarter of men and boys above six years engaged in unpaid household chores, compared to over four-fifths of women.

• Every day, an average Indian male spends 1.5 hours per day in unpaid domestic work, compared to about five hours by a female.

• Besides the ethics of buying domestic labour from wife poses a serious risk of formalizing the patriarchal Indian family where the position of men stems from their being “providers” in the relationship. And, despite a legal provision, equal inheritance rights continue to be elusive for a majority of women.

• Homemakers’ tasks are not recognised as “work”. The ruling pointed out that according to the 2011 Census, nearly 159.85 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation, as compared to only 5.79 million men.

• On an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on average. Thus, women spend more time on “unpaid care giving services for household members” as compared to men.


• Monetising the services of women homemakers in society will enhance their power and autonomy and create near-universal basic income. That remuneration will lead to a recognition of the value of unpaid work.

• The purpose was to empower women financially and help them live with dignity.


• It is important to recognize the value of unpaid domestic work. But, creating value isn’t always about fair remuneration. Asking men to pay for wives’ domestic work could further enhance their sense of entitlement. It may also put the additional onus on women to perform.


• More than creating a new provision of salary for housework, there is a need to strengthen awareness, implementation and utilization of other existing provisions.

• Starting from the right to reside in the marital home, to streedhan and haq meher, to coparcenary and inheritance rights as daughters and to basic services, free legal aid and maintenance in instances of violence and divorce.

• An aim cannot be only to ensure “basic income” to women. Women should be encouraged and helped to reach their full potential through quality education, access and opportunities of work, gender-sensitive and harassment-free workplaces and attitudinal and behavior change within families to make household chores more participative.

• Once these conditions are met, working inside the home or outside must be a woman’s choice, a freedom that she can exercise for herself.


• These activities contribute towards economic condition of the family, and the economy of the nation, but it is traditionally excluded from economic analyses.

• Our Constitution enshrines social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals. Hence, changing attitudes and mindsets need to be changed.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Jal Jeevan Mission, consider the following statements:

1. Water quality testing is one of the priority areas under Jal Jeevan Mission, the flagship programme of Union Government.

2. Jal Jeevan Mission is under implementation in partnership with the States to enable every rural home to have tap water connection by 2024.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: C

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