Chinese Man Ordered to Pay His Ex-wife $7,700 for Housework

The ruling put a price tag on women’s work at home.
February 24, 2021, 11:29am
Woman gets housework compensation in China divorce case
Women’s work at home is being given a price tag. PHOTO: HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

A Chinese judge has ordered a man to pay a $7,700 compensation to his ex-wife for doing housework and caring for their child during their five-year marriage. 

The ruling has attracted strong public interest as one of the first divorce cases in China that put a monetary value on women’s work at home. 

“Housework can create intangible assets,” the judge, Feng Miao, told China National Radio. “For example, the other spouse may be able to enhance their personal skills or acquire higher education. These cannot be reflected in tangible assets.” 

In her ruling, the judge in Beijing cited China’s new civil code, which states that a divorcee is entitled to claim compensation for taking care of children or the elderly. 

The couple, identified as Mr. Chen and Ms. Wang, married in 2015 and had one son. Chen had filed three divorce suits since they separated in 2018. The first one was withdrawn, and the second one was turned down by a court for unspecified reasons.

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Wang initially refused to be divorced during a hearing at Beijing’s Fangshan District Court. She later demanded 160,000 yuan ($25,000) in compensation, arguing that she was responsible for housework and childcare during the marriage. 

She said she also helped pay to renovate Chen's mother’s apartment, and Chen had lived with another woman during the marriage.

A judge granted the divorce and ordered them to split shared assets evenly. Ms. Wang got custody of the child, a monthly child support of 2,000 yuan ($310), and an additional 50,000 yuan ($7,700) for the housework she did, according to a court statement published on Feb. 4.  

She has filed an appeal on the ruling, according to Beijing News.

Like in most parts of the world, women in China are expected to take most of the childcare and housework burden in a family. 

While the 50,000 yuan compensation is seen as a recognition of the value of house labor, many internet users say the amount fails to match the workload of a stay-at-home mom. 

“Housewives’ work is undervalued,” said one of the most liked comments on the microblogging site Weibo. “It costs more to hire a domestic helper in Beijing for a year.” 

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