The role of women in the family and the workplace has been an issue of great change and even greater implication throughout recent history. Changing social constructions of gender roles and family roles has led to a debate over the role of women in the home and the value or lack thereof placed upon it. If the role of women is no longer always in the home should there be some compensation for those who do still agree to remain housewives (or very occasionally househusbands) in return for the work they do? The debate over housewives being paid for their work is one of entitlement, economics and social engineering.
Although this is a primarily a principled debate, one possible skeleton model for this case would be to propose that all housewives would be given equal salary from the government fund that is funded through tax payer dollars. This would be carried out in the form of tax exemptions and tax rebates that would be doled out via the institutions and processes currently in place for tax returns, auditing etc. An example of this would be the Internal Revenue Service in the United States or the Canada Revenue Agency in Canada.
 United Nations. Women's Work and Economic Empowerment. Web. 01 Jul 2011.
The philosophical basis of entitlement for pay is derived from the notion that if something comes into being as the product of an individual’s labor, then that individual is entitled to the profit and benefit of such a product because its existence was resultant of that individual’s labor. That in this case the labor is on services does not make any difference, the product of the housewife’s labor is that the children are looked after and domestic matters are all sorted. This is beneficial to society as housewives in addition to helping their own family are likely to have the time to help out others – through volunteering, through looking after other’s children after school etc.
It is estimated that the value of a housemaker’s services would be equivalent to approximately £30,000 per year. In the same way that any product or service is created, offered or manufactured by individual workers, the services of home-keeping are delivered by the labor of the home-keeper. Just as all workers are entitled to remuneration for the goods and services they create, so is a housewife is so entitled for the house-keeping services they offer.
 "Locke's Political Philosophy." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010. Web. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/#Pro>.
 "'Housewives should be paid £30,000 for doing the cooking, laundry and childcare'." Daily Mail 19 Feb 2008, Print.
Not all labor is rewarded with wages or pay despite the fact that goods and services are products of said labor. For example, voluntary and charity work are both types of labor that is not paid. The distinction is where the work is done and the obligations owed to people as a result. Home-keeping is a voluntary job that has its own forms of remuneration (family connections etc.) in the same way that volunteering and charity work do (e.g. feeling as though you are part of something larger).
Gender stereotypes dictate that the woman’s place is in the home and that that is an inferior position in the social hierarchy than that of the male’s corporate bread-winner status. The stereotype is particularly damaging to women’s expectations for themselves and the way society treats women.
By paying housewives for their work, a greater emphasis is placed on the role of the home-keeper and on the women that tend to this job. It elevates the position of women in the household by economically empowering them and giving them the very thing that usually implies the greater importance of the bread-winners in the family (economic power and status). Moreover, it elevates societal views of housewives and home-keepers by valuing their contributions to the household and society in a tangible, monetary way that society cares about.
Paying housewives for their work grants greater social status and power to women and family lives, which improves views of women and the roles they take in the family.
Paying housewives would not make much difference to images of women and family life, and could even make things worse rather than better. By paying housewives, monetizing the position of housewife and home-keeper, the state re-affirms the idea that the only true value a person can hold is an economic one and that the only way to assess and quantify the value of an individual or their impact is through financial means. Re-enforcing such a financial-centric version of worth and value is dangerous to housewives, who, by any reasonable expectation, will never make as much as private-sector professionals such as CEOs. It simply re-enforces the inferiority of house-keeping and the role of the family unit in society.
This pay gap simply re-affirms prejudice and bias of the inferiority of home-keeping as a profession and gives tangible evidence to support this by placing a monetary value on what housewives do and inevitably not including the non-monetary benefits, such as the children having their mother to take them home from school.
Keeping a division between the money-led economic world and the love-driven family world is beneficial to the family dynamic and the perceptions of all those involved.
One of the most important factors of oppression of women’s rights, particularly in the developing world, is dependence. Women are often confined to the home by force, lack of opportunity or social stigma, on behalf of their husbands. When she is not paid, a housewife must rely on her husband for money, especially if she has children she is expected to take care of. Economic empowerment allows further freedom for women in countries where women are confined to the home. By making women economic actors, you empower them to engage in different social structures and hold a stake and position in the centres of economic power. This is the most empowering tool one can offer women in most countries around the world.
By paying housewives for their work, you offer one of the most powerful forms of social empowerment for women around the world.
It is highly unlikely that this can be implemented in any country where female empowerment is as restricted as is discussed. If women are as dependent and oppressed as the proposition suggests, the political will to pass such legislation will not exist. Even if a law were passed, the pay would be very low, and so the wife would still rely on the husband’s income.
The economic sphere and the private (family) sphere have separate obligations and systems of contracts. The way in which the economic system works is that generally people are paid for their labor by those who benefit from it, either directly or indirectly. This is a mutual relationship of monetary-labor exchange. In the family sphere, the contracts are based on personal obligation and the family unit as opposed to individual contraction of services. The family unit is a pre-existing relationship not created on labor-pay agreements. Individuals opt into being a parent in a family unit on a voluntary basis and with no expectation or pretence of return for their services, except perhaps from their children in the future. Remuneration is created in the form of a functioning, rewarding family unit and family life and the products and services produced are of no quantifiable monetary value nor can they be sold or do they create wealth. Because housewives do not labor for anybody outside of their household, they should not be paid by anybody outside of their family. Moreover most of the work that housewives do would have to be done by a member of the family unit regardless of whether everyone was also engaged in monetized work – there would still need to be washing, cleaning, shopping etc done.
Housewives do not exist as workers in the economic sphere as they do not create a monetized product with their labor and opt into the agreement on voluntary non-monetary bases. As such, they are not entitled to pay.
The job of housewives provides an essential service to society—to raise a healthy family—and so those who perform the job should be paid. Even if a product or service is not economically quantifiable, the person who provides it may have created something that otherwise would not exist through the exertion of their labor. Moreover, simply because they never had an option to opt into a monetized agreement or exchange does not mean that they do not deserve such an option in the future or that their services are not economically valuable, and thus, entitles them to wages.
By paying housewives for their work, you create negative stereotypes about families and women by commodifying the role of home-keeper. Paying housewives for their work re-enforces the very framework that is seen as oppressive on home-keepers. It creates a system in which women are even more strongly expected to be housewives than they are now, rather than seeking out career jobs with upward mobility. The result is that women are discouraged from seeking to fulfil their own dreams by creating their own careers as they are more firmly chained to their traditional role. This is damaging to societal views of women and the family.
As a result the full potential of many more women will not be reached. As is the case in Saudi Arabia women are likely to be very well educated but then have their education and talents wasted by being expected to remain in the home. This would neither be good for the individuals involved or the economy as a whole.
 Saner, Emine, “Saudi Arabia opens the world’s largest university for women”, The Guardian, 27 May 2011, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/27/saudi-arabia-universi...
Paying housewives a wage would improve not reduce social mobility. Many women would still choose to go to university and the vast majority who do will still want to work. Paying housewives will not prevent any women who wants to work from working. Rather it will simply provide another option for those who wish to devote themselves full time to their family. This will give these women some financial freedom giving them more opportunities to educate themselves and their children so that they can get a better job than they otherwise would when they no longer wish to just be a housewife.
On a very practical level, this policy could never be implemented. As much as housewives are valuable members of society, it is economically impossible to pay them wages. It is only possible to increase somebody’s pay if that person creates increased wealth. There is no direct increase in wealth creation caused by housewives and therefore it would be impossible to gain a direct or accurate valuation or mechanism of exchange for housewife pay.
Even if there was no market mechanism needed, and assuming that there is no interest in getting an accurate valuation of housewife economic contribution, there is no way for a government to finance this. Without the creation of a product or service that has a consumer who would be able to use the money to purchase such services, there is no method of capital accumulation to reimburse the home-keeper with. The baby or child who is receiving the service does not have the ability to pay. Should the government attempt to fill this void, it would be prohibitively expensive to create wages for every single housewife in a country.
There are many ways to implement this on a practical level. Wages can be created through tax exemptions as opposed to the creation of new streams of wages and wealth.
Moreover, the prohibitive expense can be paid for by an increase in taxation. Home-keeping can be seen as a public good as it create good, strong homes and helps create constructive bases of support that help create productive future members of society, it can qualify as a public good that would therefore be a legitimate expense to tax the public for.
'Housewives should be paid £30,000 for doing the cooking, laundry and childcare'." Daily Mail 19 Feb 2008, Print.
"Locke's Political Philosophy." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010. Web. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/#Pro>.
Mayer, Susanne. "The Mighty Hausfrau." Let's Talk European. signandsight.com, 13 Sep 2006. Web. 20 Jun 2011. <http://www.signandsight.com/features/948.html>.
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Saner, Emine, “Saudi Arabia opens the world’s largest university for women”, The Guardian, 27 May 2011, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/27/saudi-arabia-universi...
Traikovski, Louie. "The Housewive's Wages Debate in the 1920s Australian Press." Australian Public Intellectual Network. Web. 18 Jun 2011. <http://api-network.com/main/index.php?apply=scholars&webpage=default&fle....
"UNICEF - Gender Equality." UNICEF. United Nations, 25 Aug 2004. Web. 18 Jun 2011. <http://www.unicef.org/gender/index_bigpicture.html>.
United Nations. Women's Work and Economic Empowerment. Web. 01 Jul 2011.