Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why homemakers don't get employment benefits?

Household management is not a easy task, it takes lot of time, efforts and dedication. Apart from regular and stable income to support various needs and activities family also needs a person who can take care of many other day to day responsibilities. Many times management of these things can test person's limits as these tasks vary in their nature and difficulties, tasks like cooking, house cleaning, making sure everything is at its place, taking care of guests, etc. not only require various skills but they are physically exhausting and time consuming. Anyone who has tried their hand on this work will agree with me when I say that it is not easy to manage entire household single handedly. But this work doesn't generate any official income, no one gets paid for taking care of their own family members. Household work, no matter how important it is doesn't generate any official salary or other benefits for the person who does it for their own family. Official income tax returns of all families where only one partner is officially employed and other partner is a homemaker contains income details of that 'employed' person even if that return is filed jointly by both partners. I always wondered why work of a person who is a full time homemaker is not valued in monitory terms as much as other type of works? Why there is no mechanism to attach a monetary value to work of countless housewives and househusbands? In most of countries including many developed countries this work force mostly consists of women who tirelessly work towards welfare of their family, some of them even sacrifice their alternate careers to take care of their family, some of them have to do this work even after doing a full time regular job. But it is not good to see that there is growing trend where both partners try to share equal responsibilities towards house work specially in cases where both have a full time job. If the same work is performed by someone outside family like maid or nanny they get paid but this work has no monitory value if it is performed by some family member. Women get lot of praise, they are hailed as epitomes of sacrifice, kindness, dedication and love for taking care of their families but beyond such emotional lip service this very important work doesn't receive any recognition. It is not enough to say that this is a great service towards their family or value of this type of work can not be measured in monitory terms because these workers also should get rights and benefits like other workers. Someone needs to speak for their rights like they speak for all other workers. They are not organized that doesn't mean they don't have a voice. There is no retirement benefit or social security or any other benefit offered to these people which comes with most of full or part time jobs, why? If we don't see this as a problem then we should reexamine our understanding about value added work and try to change its definition if necessary. We have neglected these people for very long time, just because they don't complain about this discrimination we should not allow this malpractice to go on, this work needs official recognition to empower millions of homemakers. Homemakers and their work is very critical for betterment of our society, it is equally important as any other type of work therefore should be entitled for compensations and benefits like any other type of work.

I understand that this can introduce lot of technical and legal difficulties but our society has dealt with more complicated and sensitive issues successfully, so I don't think that this issue is so complicated that we can't come up with some practical solution for this. Why don't these women (as well as men) can claim half of their family income amount as their own wages in joint income tax returns? Why can't they get half share of the social security and medicaid tax so that they can generate their own benefits rather than depending on benefits as a spouse? It is unfair for them to depend on their spouse's social security benefits when they also work equally hard to take care of their families. These people offer great amount of support to their partners so that they can work out of home.

Actually one may ask, why it is necessary to attach a monitory value to house work? Very short and quick answer to this can be, simply because it is also a work, rather very important work which requires lot of effort, time and energy, so it should be treated as any other type of value generating work. Lack of any monitory value has generated a very wrong perception about this work, so wrong that this work is not at all considered as value generating work. If someone says that his or her partner is a homemaker, then it is assumed that they don't work or they are not employed or they are stay home mom or dad, which is a very wrong perception. The main reason for this perception is lack of any monitory value attached with this work. We need to change this perception and attaching some monitory value to this work might help in changing it. The statement, "I am a stay home mom/ dad" doesn't actually reflect the amount of efforts that persona takes to maintain that home. I request all concerned agencies to look into this matter with all sincerity and try to come up with some practical way to remove this shortcoming. For centuries this work did not get its deserved due and if we can do something to change it it will be a great achievement. It will definitely strengthen our social fabric, this will also bring dignity and respect for all these dedicated homemakers which they totally deserve.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


  1. Aren't they all "Taken for granted" all over the world.. that's why they are not valued and the MCPs will never take a just and ethical view of this !!

    1. I think time has come to give them well deserved benefits like any other organized sectors. This is why I am proposing this idea, may be this has some flaws or inherent problems associated with it but we need to start the discussion and then only something positive will come out of it.