Italian campaigners are calling for housewives to be paid a state salary.
The basis for asking for a salary from the state is the idea that the unpaid work at home benefits society in intangible ways, so deserves monetary compensation. I agree that there is a benefit to the society, but I disagree that it is economically intangible.
It is exerted through the working members of the family- in other words, a person doing unpaid work at home makes life better for their partner , who then potentially becomes a more productive employee/worker, earns higher wages, and pays higher taxes.
(I’m not sure if there are any studies supporting this theory, but I’m willing to assume that this does happen.)*
The benefits of a person’s unpaid work at home goes directly to their partner.
Any benefit to the larger society is thus indirect. It is a factor of the economic and social advantages that her partner gets.
This is why I disagree with taxing society- the ‘secondary’ beneficiary – in order to pay this wage.
I however agree that a wage must be paid- and this must come from the primary beneficiary – the working partner.
I disagree on making this wage legally payable.
A family unit should be left to negotiate this wage any which way they want- and governmental legislation of personal financial decision making doesn’t exactly make for good economic sense.
Instead, the government could create incentives (in the form of tax breaks?) for workers who share a part of their wages with family members who work solely at home. To claim it, the working partner would demonstrate that assets have been created for their unpaid partner.
* ETA- There is plenty of research work on this topic as it turns out. The theory is known as the Spousal Support Theory, and papers on it affect HR and alimony policy.
A meta- analysis which confirms the spousal support theory that I’ve referred to :Career choice in management and entrepreneurship: a research companion. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar, 2007, pp. 101-126.
Full text available at at research website of the London School of Economics (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk)