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Duirng a divorce settlement a woman in China has received US$4,500 compensation for being a full-time housewife. Photo: SCMP Artwork

Chinese court awards woman US$4,500 compensation for 7 years of housework and child-rearing from ex-husband after divorce

  • A woman received 30,000 yuan (US$4,500) as compensation in divorce for being a stay-at-home mother and doing all the household chores
  • The woman cared for their premature baby during their almost 7-year marriage

A woman in China who received 30,000 yuan (US$4,500) in compensation for being a full-time wife and mother during her marriage has kicked off a national discourse about housework in mainland China.

The woman, surnamed Wang, from Suzhou city in Jiangsu province, eastern China, was awarded the payment as compensation for being the full-time family carer for about seven years after she and her husband, surnamed Tan, divorced this year.

During the marriage, Wang was a stay-at-home wife and looked after their son who was born prematurely shortly after the couple married in 2015. Wang also handled all the housework while Tan worked full time.

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The couple had become estranged from each other after the first few years of marriage and had decided to live apart by 2021. Since then, Wang has lived with the couple’s son and worked part-time.

During divorce proceedings Wang sought compensation from Tan for the housework and child-rearing work she had undertaken.

“Wang said she had worked as a full-time housewife after she married Tan, and she did all the housework including laundry, cooking, childcare, and shopping, so she demanded compensation,” a law clerk surnamed Zhang at the local courthouse told news site Lichi News.

Zhang claimed that Tan showed very little respect for the value of the housework done by Wang, and he didn’t agree that she had contributed significantly to the family in financial terms.

The woman had stayed at home managing the household and caring for their son who had been born prematurely. Photo: Weibo

The court ruled that Tan must pay a one-time payment of 30,000 yuan to Wang for housework, and pay regular maintenance for the upkeep of his 7-year-old son still being raised by Wang.

The case has gone viral on mainland Chinese social media. At the time of writing, 15,061 comments and 213,251 likes had been made on the Weibo post containing the news story. Many people thought the payment for housework was too small.

One person said: “How cheap a housewife is! Is it possible to hire a nanny for such an amount of money?”

Another said: “Housewives are not free nannies. Everybody knows being a wife is much harder than working as a nanny. No wonder more and more women are increasingly scared of marriage and giving birth.”

“I was a housewife for seven years when I felt lonely, isolated and frustrated without any social networking, so I will never ever encourage my daughter to do the same,” another person said.

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Chinese society has become increasingly aware of the value of housework in the division of labour within relationships. The Civil Code which was enacted in 2021 stipulated that the spouse who takes on the bulk of housework, child-rearing and caring for elderly relatives has a legal right to seek compensation from the other partner during a divorce.

The code is not gender-specific and protects whoever is the carer.

Earlier this year, a court in Beijing ruled a woman had to pay about 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) in compensation to her ex-husband who had raised their child by himself for nearly four years.

In 2020, another court in Beijing ordered a husband to pay 50,000 yuan (US$7,500) to his former wife who had been a housewife for five years.