ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Contextualising ‘Wages for Housework’ for Indian Society and Digitalising Economy


The feminist demand for wages for housework (WFH) emerged in the 1970s in parts of Europe, the United States, and Canada calling for wage compensation for women for their unpaid reproductive labour. Even though India has conditional and direct cash transfer policies for women now, these do not recognise women’s reproductive labour. Therefore, with the idea of wages for housewives appearing in recent election manifestos and political rhetoric, an opportunity to reflect on the scope and applicability of this legislative demand arose.

Silvia Federici, a member of the WFH movement in the 1970s and the intellectual backbone of its subsequent articulations, has theorised this demand by separating reproductive and productive work as in the sexual division of labour framework. Even at the time, societies, where more porous forms of work existed, belied this categorical distinction, and Black feminists noted that the productive–reproductive binary did not hold among Black women whose labour was historically diverted towards both production and reproduction (Hopkins 2017). Federici’s (2020) primary subject was the proletarian housewife, whose labour was studied in relation to the reproduction of an industrial society. While several Marxist accounts, including Federici’s, warn us against a parochial view of the industrial working class, how the WFH demand can be conceptualised in India requires careful reflection.

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Updated On : 30th Aug, 2021
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