In line with the wave of globalisation in the last half-century, housework has already become commodified. The development of Chinese regions and households are relative to that of developed nations, where enormous quantities of the female labour force are output as reproductive labour. Commodification has become household labour’s form of ‘wage’.
Along with the transition to middle and upper-class, the majority of full-time housewives leave their homes to join the workforce only faced with the double responsibility of both wage work and household labour. At the same time, in China this has sparked a shift in the social group engaged in care labour. Much reproductive and care-based labour is now undertaken by grandparents and retired seniors. Under the climate of an aging population, mothering has become an ever more admirable position. After the dissolution of the one-child policy, working women are expected to have more children, pressuring females to continue nurturing the next generation of productive workers.
Though the Wages for Housework campaign once mobilised European and American women, it seems that it may no longer spark the sympathies of today’s Chinese women. The Marxist feminist analysis at the core of the movement is however still very much valid. As long as gender-based divisions of labour are still in play and as long as reproductive labour in society is still primarily taken up in the home by women (whether mothers, senior women or hired domestic labourers), the question of household labour will continue to be a crucial issue for the contemporary feminist movement. (WU Bilian)
English version of this influential pamphlet can be downloaded for free at libcom.org.
– – – – – – – – – –