Beijing – A Chinese man has been ordered to pay more than S$10,000 to his ex-wife for years of unpaid housework, in a landmark ruling that has sparked debate on women’s unpaid domestic labour.

Divorcing spouses in China can now request compensation if they carried more responsibilities at home under the country’s new civil code, which came into effect this year.

According to a report on Wednesday (Feb 24), Ms Wang, the ex-wife, had “looked after the child and managed household chores, while her husband Mr Chen did not care about or participate in any other household affairs besides going to work” during their five years of marriage.

The Beijing court heard on Feb 4 that Ms Wang had filed a claim for extra compensation for her responsibilities such as childcare and housework.

Ms Wang had indeed taken on more household responsibilities, the court ruled. It was decided that she should receive 50,000 yuan (S$10,200) on top of sole child custody and an additional 2,000 yuan (S$408) for alimony paid monthly.

However, it was reported through local media that Ms Wang had initially requested 160,000 yuan (S$32,690) compensation before appealing.

The ruling then sparked a widespread online debate over the value of women’s unpaid domestic labour, the report noted.

The hashtag “stay-at-home wife receives 50,000 yuan housework compensation” went trending on Weibo, the country’s Twitter-like platform, garnering over 570 million views by Wednesday.

“A full-time nanny could cost more than this for half a year,” read one comment. “Are women’s youth and feelings this cheap?”

One said, “women should never be stay-at-home wives. When you divorce, you are left with nothing. 50,000 yuan in housework compensation is bulls***.”

As quoted by local media on Monday, one of the judges said the final amount reflected the length of time the couple was married plus Ms Wang’s effort at housework, Mr Chen’s income, and the local cost of living.

It was estimated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that Chinese women spend nearly four hours every day doing unpaid labour, which is 2.5 times more than men and higher than the average worker./TISG