Valuing women's unwaged labour

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 13, 2000

The Red Thread Women's Organisation launched a campaign calling for the valuing of women's unwaged labour on International Women's Day, last Wednesday. Should the housewife's work in the home be valued? If so how much should she be paid? In addition, should men assume the roles of homemaker and care-giver? These are the questions we asked the men/women-in-the-street this week. Their views follow:

Sharon Forde - single parent/self-employed: "Being a single parent is not an easy responsibility especially when the father turns his back on his own child or children. Being a home-maker and care-giver then becomes even more demanding with fulfilling household chores, working to earn an income and tending to emotional needs. Many of us are not single parents by choice. So based on my experience I know the value of the work of the housewife. It is priceless. The housewife works from the time she gets up from bed to the time she goes back to bed at night. But if the state must take on the responsibility of paying the housewife for her work, a token $5,000 per week would suffice. I think that the unwaged house worker should contribute to the National Insurance Scheme so that she too could benefit."

Ricky Lazarus - salesman: "We were five children, now all grown, who gave our mother plenty problems. Her work looking after the home was plenty. I know that. Based on her work I know that we could never pay her what she is worth. I believe that she should have been paid for all that she did. If she was paid that could have also gone back into the home. I think that many times she felt that she was helpless especially when extra money was needed. I know that many times she also felt that her work was thankless. None of that was true. Now that we are all big and working we all give her something for herself as well as for the home but that is not like she [was] earning it when she had to work so very hard. She still works because she is accustomed to working but she does not need to work so hard any more. Without offending my father I think that men should also join in the housework and looking after the children instead of leaving it to the woman only. It would have helped many of us children grow up to be better persons."

Mary Amjad - private sector employee: "Housework is very important in every home. The person who does the housework is generally the one person we love the most, yet she is subjected to all the work without being paid a wage. Yes I agree that some form of monetary compensation should be paid to her. Though her work is so valuable, getting up very early to make her husband's breakfast and lunch, yet he abuses her saying that she is at home all day doing nothing. He does not value her work -- washing his clothes cleaning the home, cooking the food looking after the children, shopping. On the other hand, men whose wives work should not be left to carry all the strain of housework when they both come home from work at the same time. He must pitch in his lot before he could go and hang out with the gang. Then he could probably even take his wife along."

Anthony Andrews - "I feel that a housewife should be paid for the work she does because of its value to the home and society in general. Of course the state would not be able to pay for all the work she does because it is invaluable. However, whatever she is paid will depend on how many children there are in the house under the age of 18. In cases where a husband is not able to work and his wife is able to he should assume the role as homemaker and care-giver. One the other hand where both parties are working I feel that men should take on some of the work. I do it. I wash and I cook and I help with other housework. As I share in some of the work, I think that $10,000 as a token wage would work initially."

Abigail Foreman - teacher: "I think that women who look after the home are very important and should be paid for what they do. In homes without a mother, the children tend to feel unloved and some take to playing on the streets when left to their own devices. The state should take on the responsibility of paying the housewives from the taxpayers' money. Taking the state into consideration I think that $10,000 a month should be paid as a token of appreciation. And for the working woman, in the same way she could come home and do housework, her husband should do his share."

Mikey Samuels - public sector employee: "I would rate the housewife who gets no money for her work in the home as near to that of her husband who is away at work earning the family income. And I do believe that for her contribution to keeping the world very sane she should be paid a wage. This does not include what her husband gives her to manage the home but what she should earn for taking care of the home as well as competently managing the home budget. If I am going to put a dollar value, it should be anything like $6,000 a week. I also believe very strongly that if a husband and wife are working that both parties should help in what is traditionally known as the woman's work."

Olita Stevenson - public sector employee: "I value woman's work very highly because it is work that starts from the time the housewife wakes up to the time she sleeps at night. She will never be paid properly for any housework she does. It is a priceless and thankless job that deserves recognition and some form of monetary compensation indeed. Home life evolves around her and the work she does and the love she gives. Her work cannot be compared to what an employer gives an employee. This is what men do not understand. While the woman's role is very important in the home they would not want to put a value to it because they would say housework is the woman's work for which she was made. Even if both husband and wife are working some men would get home before his wife, kick off his shoes and sit with his feet up in front of the television and wait for his wife to come home to cook for him. This is not fair; he should start the cooking and get things going. They should share the chores. I think this is just one example to show that men are generally lazy."

Zakir Hussain - video editor: "According to religion women do not have equal rights with men. The woman's place is in the home. Her job is absolutely important and she cannot neglect the home because society will begin to collapse if she is not there to hold the home together. Her job is priceless. It is so important that there is no monetary value for it. Man was made to provide for his family. Where he cannot provide, he has to give his wife permission to work. Religion or no religion, in this life or in the next, there is no way I would agree that men and women have equal rights. In terms of the men being homemaker and care-giver, of course the men should help their wives with household chores. Only a man who has no conscience would not help his wife, especially if she is working away from home to earn an income."

Samantha Lashley - cook/homemaker: "Women do so much work that I could not put a value to it. It is not just physical work like cooking and cleaning, it goes above and beyond that. Work does not stop at nights because when a child is sick it is the woman who tends to the child; worse yet if she has to go out to work next day. I think that because of the contribution housewives make to enhance society and the country's development government should make provision for them in the national budget. I think that a housewife should be given an allowance based on the size of the family as well. In terms of men helping in the home, I think it is time that they become more conscientious and help at home instead of going and 'lime' at some corner shop with their friends leaving their wives at home alone to cope."

William Edwards - public sector employee: "Paying women for the housework they do is another ball game. But, yes, I think that if they must be paid then it should be government's responsibility. We in the home must help out by making our contribution. In the home I also think that the father should not only depend on his wife to do all the housework but he should help as well. Children need both father and mother. Today, tomorrow, anything can happen to the mother and it will be left to him to look after the children and the home. If the father does not know how to cope with the activities of the home he would not be able to hold it together and things could go very wrong then."