Neither Chinese divorce law nor marriage would be considered my métier, so to speak. I know enough about one of these things, however, to conclude Beijing’s new rules on post-marital compensation are decidedly untenable.
According to a report this week from the BBC, a man in China has been ordered by a court to pay his now-former wife 50,000 yuan, or roughly $7,700, for the housework she did during their five-year marriage.
The decision was based on a new civil code in the country in which a spouse can ask for damages if they bore the brunt of the child-rearing, housework or caring for relatives.
The husband, whose surname is Chen, filed for divorce last year from his wife, surname Wang, five years after their 2015 marriage. (No other details were provided as to their identities.)
“She was reluctant to divorce at first, but later requested financial compensation, arguing that Chen had not shouldered any housework or childcare responsibilities for their son,” the BBC reported.
“Beijing’s Fangshan District Court ruled in her favour, ordering him to pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan, as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she has done.
“The presiding judge told reporters on Monday that the division of a couple’s joint property after marriage usually entails splitting tangible property. ‘But housework constitutes intangible property value,’ said the judge.”
The common property was split equally between the two.
But enough with the fair, dishwater-leftist treatment the Beeb gave the Chen-Wang cleaving. It was time for some empurpled, quasi-feminist propaganda straight from the Chinese Communist Party — which is why I headed straight to Global Times, the worst of Beijing’s English-language propaganda mills.
“Some netizens hailed the judgement, taking it as a recognition of full-time wives’ work,” the outlet reported.
“Others said 50,000 yuan for household labor compensation to a full-time wife in Beijing is far from enough, noting that the payment for a house cleaner for six months is more than that.
“Some netizens, taking the case further to the aspect of gender issue, alleged that women should not be full-time housewives anyway.”
So, just so we’re clear, Beijing’s mouthpiece says there are three views on this one:
- It’s a great ruling because wives get paid for the work they do.
- It’s a good start, but wives should be paid more.
- And why should wives stay at home, anyway?
There wasn’t a single different view to be found. If there were, Global Times doubtlessly would have reported it. After all, if you can’t trust Chinese media to be truthful, who can you trust?
China is an outlier in many respects.
Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found Chinese women spend roughly 2 1/2 times more on unpaid housework than men do, higher than the average of two times in other OECD countries.
Extended families living under the same roof can exacerbate this, as well; older parents or grandparents often live with married couples, which can create tension.
Several questions can be posed here. How do you put a value on the amount of work being done? Can it be quantified? What if they both had jobs and did housework?
However, two things stuck out at me upon reading about this. The first was that many comments from Chinese social media users — according to The Guardian — repeated a common mantra among women: “To keep yourself, don’t get married or give birth.”
“Everyone who has done housework knows that doing housework is no easier than going to work, it’s often harder,” one commented.
“The key thing about being a full-time wife is that you lose your career growth opportunities,” another said. “After a while, your future career will be discounted a lot, and there is no way to measure this with money.”
The other is that China is a culture where the majority is religiously unaffiliated and where the state often takes an unusual interest in matters of family; the one-child policy wasn’t repealed until about five years ago, after all.
One hopes that even with limited penetration for Christianity in China, the spirit of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 still resonates: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Marriage isn’t the delegation of work. It’s a union between two people who endeavor to make their lives easier and more fruitful — and, under the right circumstances, more Godly. All divorces are sad, but this one is especially so, given the circumstances.
Marriage isn’t just a financial transaction.
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