Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 26 April, 2002, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Household work: Who's doing it? Should they get paid for it?
Ironing, washing up and looking after the kids are expensive tasks, according to new research in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics says that the value of household work done in 2000 amounted to 700 billion, or 75% of British Gross Domestic Product.

This unpaid work is shared between the sexes more equally than expected. Men spend 20% of their time doing it, while women put in 27% of theirs.

The UK government is considering ways of rewarding some household work by, for example, paying grandparents who do the childcare.

Is there enough recognition of the value of household work? Should people get paid for it? And are men really doing as much of it as women?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Paid to keep your own house clean?! That is absolutely absurd. Get the children to do it. It's a form of discipline.
Lydia, UK

If, as a taxpayer and NI payer I'll be expected to fund this, does it mean I can determine who can and can't have children, what type of housework they should and shouldn't do and where they should do it?
Bob, England

Any chance this government could come up with a real idea?

Scott, UK
Any chance this government could come up with a real idea? Hey I know! I spend all of my life breathing, that equals ?7.29 per hour for every hour of the day, of course the government will want to tax it because air has certain addictive qualities I do not wish to give up (call me selfish!). Due to the fact that it is not taxed at the moment the government is losing $7 trillion per year, money that could be spent on the NHS I think you will agree. Women breathe 38% of the air on the planet and men breathe 30% of the air. Women obviously breathe more than men so we need a Breathing Equality Board set up that will cost the taxpayer ?3 million per year.
Scott, UK

I get annoyed when parents complain about housework, and that they should be rewarded for staying home and looking after their children. Whose decision was it to have kids in the first place? And don't tell me that you procreated for the good of the country, people have kids for their own selfish reasons, Then they want a reward for looking after them.
Kc, UK

Does the phrase 'reproduction of labour' ring any bells?
H Powell, England

Even if we women stuck to the minimum wage rage for a 40 hour week, most of our menfolk would not be able to afford us.
Hazel, UK

We in Iran do not need to help our wives with the housework as they usually do everything by themselves! It's the way they want to so it's very convenient for us! Poor English men...
Reza, Iran/England

I cannot believe I am reading this! Knowing the government there will be some loop hole that once again means that anyone in employment of more than 16 hours a week means that they already earn too much, therefore are either not entitled to it, or the extra income pushes them into a higher tax bracket. Who is going to monitor this anyway? After all in work there is a manager to ensure you are performing your job to a satisfactory level, does this mean there will be someone coming to inspect your house to ensure you have remembered to dust under ornaments and that you did move the sofa to vacuum under it! Is it just me or has the government completely lost the plot these days?
Naomi, UK

I would not expect to be paid to keep my own living conditions to a standard I find acceptable, but I would expect to pay for outside help with my household chores. I work full time, and I would be prepared to pay someone to keep the garden under control and to do the ironing. Finding somebody trustworthy is so far proving impossible.
Hazel, UK

Paid for by who? Me, that tax payer? I don't think so

Andy, UK
Paid for by who? Me, that tax payer? I don't think so. If the government wants to pay me for hovering my own flat, doing my own washing etc then I won't argue, but it seems a ridiculous idea to me. People should just get on with it, like we have done for years. This is the biggest non-issue I have seen for quite a while.
Andy, UK

How much did this study about housework cost? Standing alone it may not be the largest sum but combined with dozens of similar "initiatives" (now there's a misuse of language if ever there was one!) the government must be wasting a fortune on pointless studies that prove nothing and achieve even less. Where's all this so called prudence that Gordon Brown keeps banging on about?
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

What a waste of money, just in carrying out this survey. It should have been put to much better use, the Police Force, Fire Brigade or The NHS should all take the ONS to task for wasting what should be theirs. I am appalled that we as a nation are wasting such a lot of tax payers money, it is time we got rid of these Survey takers, and put the money to good use. I bet a whole hospital fully kitted out and staffed could be provided for what it has cost for all these wasteful, no point surveys to be carried out. Shame on you Mr Blair.
Angela, UK

Everyone has to do housework and the reward is good living conditions and clean clothes to wear. As for grandparents looking after grandchildren the reward should be helping your son or daughter and contributing to their grandchildren's future. Why are financial rewards always needed? Contributing to the future of our children should be enough reward.
Ross, Scotland

What a silly question. People are already "paid" for doing household work. When my wife and I do our housework, our reward is a nice, clean, orderly home for us and for our future children. Why should the rewards of this effort be described in monetary terms? And how can we quantify the value of a clean home and children who grow up in a good environment with parents who don't neglect them and their care in favour of more fiscally rewarding pastimes?
Cory N., Oregon, USA

Yes. If there are children in the family, a mother can stay at home and look after her family and be financially rewarded. I think society would benefit tremendously.
Sue Steffen, England

I'm worth at least $20 and hour for cleaning my own teeth, whereas some people I know would only deserve minimum wage

Leigh, USA
Would there be job titles to go with this? Director of Vacuuming, Senior VP of Dusting, that kind of thing. And some people would be better at it than others so you'd need to have pay-scales; e.g. I'm worth at least $20 and hour for cleaning my own teeth, whereas some people I know would only deserve minimum wage for the way they look after theirs.
Leigh, USA (UK orig)

Great. This means we'll soon have our family members striking for more money, claiming sick pay, holiday pay and accident compensation, followed by the government boarding up the family home because the working conditions aren't in line with EU directives. Seriously though: this is one of the barmiest ideas that this or any other government has ever proposed. Blair needs to get himself a sun hat.
Chris B, England

Both my wife and myself work 8-10 hours each weekday and so do the housework when we get home. As this is always after 6pm we should therefore be paid for doing housework at time-and-a-half!
Mik, UK

I can't help but feel a bit miffed that the government who clearly has enough cash to pay us to do our own housework has just put up our national insurance!!
Wendy, UK

Could this be a cunning plan to top up their MPs salary?

Are there members of Her Majesty's government that do the housework? Could this be a cunning plan to top up their MPs salary? Just imagine Butler Blair and Pinafore Brown (what a sight) out Batman and Robin. What we should be hearing is the cost of volunteer work, blood donors and care workers that make this country tick and yet go unnoticed.

What a daft calculation. Does that mean that I'm selling myself short for not charging taxi fares to myself for driving myself to work? Housework is not worth 700 bn, it's just something we all have to do.
Jon Cooper, UK

What would happen to the economy if one person out of each relationship decided to resign from their job and stay at home and get paid for doing housework? It sounds really nice to have all day to do the household chores that working people fit in before and after work and during lunch breaks. It might not pay as much but the savings made from travel costs, work clothes, convenience foods and all working costs would be reduced. Personally I would still prefer to have some paid work outside the home.
Sheila, north east England

If only I had known that our wonderful government was funding such essential work by the Office for National Statistics I wouldn't have grumbled about the recent tax rises in the Budget.
Phil, UK

I live alone and do not employ a cleaner so therefore do all my own housework. Do these proposals mean that I can expect some sort of tax relief for cleaning up after myself?! It's all getting a bit silly isn't it?
Di, UK

It would not be fair to expect my wife to do all the work

David Walton, UK
My wife and I have shared the household tasks for years. With both of us working and with two teenage boys (who also help out) it would not be fair to expect my wife to do all the work. I currently do the washing up and all the washing and ironing. I must add though that in my immediate friends group I am still the odd one out.
David Walton, UK

There's no reason for select groups to be paid for housework. Everyone has to do it (or get someone else to). Many homemakers are paid for what they do - not as a cash salary but in the form of the housing and living costs provided by their partners. These costs can easily be 10,000 if you have to pay for them from your own pocket.
Vicki, UK

Housework is part of day to day existence. To suggest that one should get paid for keeping one's house clean and tidy is too daft for words.
Rodger Edwards, UK

As a man living on his own and having lived with a woman in the past I have come to the conclusion that it is women who make all the mess in the first place, so shouldn't they clean up after themselves anyway? The beauty of living on my own is only having to do the housework twice a year.
Steve Whelan, England

My wife and I share housework and family responsibilities 50/50. Price zero, value beyond measure.

David, Wales
It really is a sad reflection on the current state our culture when ideas such as this are being considered by government. Must everything have a price tag? The old adage about knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, comes to mind. For the statisticians, my wife and I share housework and family responsibilities 50/50, always have done; price zero, value beyond measure.
David, Wales

In my household my girlfriend and I both work full time, but she is very lazy and messy around the house and I have to do ALL the cleaning, washing up, ironing, hoovering etc, but I don't actually mind. I think the idea that a full time working woman has also to do all the housework while the husband sits around and does nothing is a myth. Most men help out around the house and nearly all men do alternative work around the house including DIY, repairs, washing the car, mowing the grass etc. I suspect this is another of Labour's looney tune ideas to gather in more tax revenue - as those being paid for cleaning their own house or looking after their own kids will in effect be in employment and therefore liable to pay taxes on their income. Its about time the citizens of this country had Tony Blair and his mentally deranged government carted off to the asylum.
Mike Deal, UK

I would welcome this. I work full time and look after the house and two children; my husband just thinks he does. Pass the payments my way!
Jackie Russell, England

I'm the sole breadwinner in my household, we made a joint decision when we planned our family that my wife would stay home and look after the child. Due to that she does most of the housework. I still help out with some cooking, ironing and stuff when there is a lot to be done at one time. If the government wants to help families and encourage one partner to stay home to raise the children/keep house then all they need to do is allow the working partner to use the tax allowance of both partners. That way many people currently forced to work low paid jobs so they can afford to eat would be able to stay home and raise the children. They claim to be the party of the traditional family, yet they killed off the married person allowance and replaced it with some dodgy children's tax credit that they had to fix in this Budget as there were so many holes in the way it was awarded.
Richard How, UK

Would we have to let government inspectors to come in and check that we have done the washing up?
Paula, UK

People are already paid for housework and childcare

Keith, Ireland
People are already paid for housework and childcare. To enable one or more family members to go out and earn a wage others must stay at home and look after the house/kids. The actual income earned is essentially the earnings of all household members not just the individual whose name appears on the payslip.
Keith, Ireland

Grandparents doing childcare should be paid by the parents of the children, not the government! We already subsidise childcare for many lower paid parents - does that mean some of the money currently being used to fund nurseries and trained childminders is going to be taken away and given to grandparents? What a ludicrous idea!
Donna G, UK

Another madcap government scheme. What gives them the right to interfere in how individual families handle their own housework and childcare? Where do they think the money is going to come from to pay people? Let me guess - another increase in national insurance.
Paolo Sammut, UK

I share the housework with my wife, although since I work longer hours she does more of the housework. Although some might say she does more than her share, when the shed roof needs to be fixed in a rainstorm she isn't the one who gets soaked. Likewise she doesn't spend an afternoon pouring sweat when she decides its time a tree in the garden got cut down. If housework is to be paid, who will pay? Am I going to end up paying people to do their housework as well as giving my wife her share of our budget? While we're at it, I spent several days refurbishing one of our bedrooms recently - can I have some money for that as well?
John B, UK

This appears to be an attempt by the Office for National Statistics to justify its existence

Barry P, England
This appears to be an attempt by the Office for National Statistics to justify its existence. As far as being paid for housework and child rearing, will I be able to claim back pay? Will I be able to claim for the hundreds of hours of house maintenance, car maintenance and lawn mowing that I have carried out over the last 30 years? They must count for something in this madcap scheme of things.
Barry P, England

How much time and money went into a survey to study the monetary value of housework? What next, a new definition of pay TV?
D Walton, UK

I am astonished that the government seems to have so much time on its hands that it can seriously be considering this. It is clearly time for a few job cuts in the government.
Adam, UK

As a working mother/housewife/childcare provider, the thought of the government paying people to stay at home and do housework is as ludicrous as paying grandparents to look after their grandchildren. Housework is the home owner/occupier's responsibility and childcare is the parents'. Is this another attempt to win votes from the government or have they gone stark raving mad?
Vicky, UK

This is incredible! Being paid to look after family or do the cleaning? As someone without children, will I be given the option of being paid to look after the dog or clean my own car? The money wasted on such an idea would be better spent on free vet services like that of doctors.
David Burden, UK

Is this liberalism and equal opportunities gone mad?

Sam, UK
Is this liberalism and equal opportunities gone mad? We all live in houses, we all want to live somewhere clean, neat and tidy so we all have the responsibility of doing housework. Why should we get paid? It's a ridiculous idea. What next? Pay parents to look after their own children?
Sam, UK

Housework has to be done in every household. It's ridiculous to suggest people should be paid for doing their own housework. It's up to each individual family how they organise it, and that includes ensuring that if one person in the household does less work outside the household but does more of the housework they still get a fair share of the family budget.
Linda, UK

See also:

24 Apr 02 | UK
Housework 'worth' 700bn
06 Feb 02 | Education
Cost of childcare soars
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories