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Is it proper for housewives to get paid?

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Lawyer Giulia Bongiorno claims that pay would provide dignity and economic freedom to women who work at home.

“Salary for housewives”: yes, or no? Cyclically, the proposal to pay for the work of housewives reappears in public debates. Among those in favour, the Italian lawyer Giulia Bongiorno associates this idea with the violence women are subjected to. Femicides are frequently the terrible culmination of a succession of harassment and maltreatment, particularly at home, where women should be the safest. Many people are aware that they are in danger, but they do not flee. “How will I sustain myself if I leave home?” they wonder. In other words, economic dependency is a life sentence.         

It is important to note that the majority of these women lack income because they are instrumental in the realisation of their partners’ projects, who are free to devote all of their energy to work because someone else- namely their wife- is responsible for the house and children.

In Italy, the “zero growth”, the substantial balance between the birth rate and the death rate, has been present for years and is now steadily worsening. The number of offspring per woman falls to 1.37 on average (1.46 in 2010). Only 20.1 per cent of women with three or more children work, compared to 44 per cent of moms with one or more children.                                                                                  For some time now, having children in Italy has meant taking on a very specific risk: starvation. It is the oldest risk in the world but it is exactly what you do not expect in the 21st century, in a European country. Yet the coincidence between the child poverty index and unemployment, especially of mothers, has been photographed over and over again by Save the Children’s Atlas of Childhood at Risk. The reality leaves no doubt: if you have children, you will get poorer, and if you are a woman, you will probably lose your job, but your husband will not. Are you ready for it? Why can’t women be paid for becoming mothers if it means interrupting their career? How might we assure that they maintain the (economic) independence they have developed throughout their employment?

Giulia Bongiorno proposes redefining the housewife’s position entirely. Women must be allowed the choice to live a conscientious and dignified lifestyle, releasing them from the horrible sensation of inadequacy, or even guilt, that stems from the false societal idea that being a housewife equates to being nothing. The only way to accomplish this is to ensure that they are paid.

But many disagree, seeing paying housewives (and especially moms) as something with more harm than beneficial consequences. According to them, in that way women would once again be restricted to the home (though with a pay), as our grandmothers used to, nullifying women’s rights gained with great hardship in recent decades. In addition, future generations of women would be discouraged from studying and finding work. It would also be inequitable to women who work “outside” but still have to care for their homes and children.

In other words, housewives’ salaries would stymie all proposals aimed at achieving true welfare: more services for children, reimbursements for kindergartens or babysitters, but most importantly, a job that allows both parents to work on a family project (agile work, telework, part-time) in order to achieve true social equality between mothers and fathers.

What are your thoughts about it? Is there another way to assure independence and safety for housewives, if there is not a minimum wage?

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