Chinese court orders man to pay ex-wife for housework in landmark ruling

The woman told the court that during 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 housework. PHOTO: ST FILE

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese man has been ordered to pay his ex-wife more than S$10,000 for years of unpaid housework, in a landmark divorce case that has sparked furious debate in China.

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

Ex-wife Wang told the Beijing court that during 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 ruled that Ms Wang had indeed taken on more household responsibilities and should receive 50,000 yuan (S$10,200) plus sole child custody and an additional 2,000 yuan in alimony per month.

But after local media reported this week that Ms Wang had appealed - having originally requested 160,000 yuan compensation - the ruling sparked widespread online debate over the value of women's unpaid domestic labour.

The trending hashtag "stay-at-home wife receives 50,000 yuan housework compensation" gained over 570 million views on the Twitter-like platform Weibo by Wednesday (Feb 24).

"Women should never be stay-at-home wives... When you divorce, you are left with nothing whatsoever. 50,000 yuan in housework compensation is bulls***," 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.

The 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", one of the judges was quoted as saying by local media on Monday.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has estimated that Chinese women spend nearly four hours doing unpaid labour daily - 2.5 times that of men and higher than the average worker.

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

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