Sharing some of Nandini’s comments in response to The Bride’s post – Why I wanted payment for labour and the associated work. Find the original comment and discussion here.
What do you think?
I really do think there is an urgent need for us to recognize that society benefits immensely from childbearing, child-rearing, and care-giving work that currently goes unpaid. But okay, let’s not pay them because that would open a huge can of worms. What we need to do instead is stop penalizing those who do this unpaid work.
–> Make it explicitly illegal to discriminate against mothers in hiring and wages.
–> Tax people and businesses in order to have government-funded mandatory paid maternity AND paternity leave for the entire first year of a child’s life (6 months each). This kills many birds with one stone: women aren’t forced to return to work because they can’t afford to care for their child/themselves, men are allowed the chance to be real fathers, the burden of unpaid childcare is more likely to be shared between both parents instead of just the mom, children are likely to be breastfed longer than they currently are, children benefit from parental care in their first year of life, employers have no reason to discriminate against hiring women because both men and women are going to take time off when they have kids.
–> Tax businesses and people in order to have government-funded free quality childcare for all children. This also kills many birds with one stone: women are no longer forced to quit their jobs because childcare is more expensive than their income, elders aren’t burdened with unpaid care of grandchildren as a JOB instead of a pleasure that they choose when they like, children are given quality and standardised care in early childhood which is shown to make an enormous difference in levels of achievement in poorer children especially.
–> Force all employers to provide nursing/pumping rooms and breaks without penalizing women for it. If people can have smoking breaks and coffee breaks, by god lactating women should be allowed to pump milk!
All this is obviously going to take higher taxes, and I’m all for that. We have a responsibility towards people who create the next generation of people!
I think, rather than making husbands pay wives to have children, SOCIETY should pay women to have children via taxation.
Allow me to use a comparison I’ve used in a comment:
Compare childbirth to being a soldier. We have no issues with paying taxes to pay soldiers, giving soldiers lots of benefits and real respect, right? Why not do the same for moms??
After all, soldiers and moms benefit society in almost exactly comparable ways. Procreation is as basic and essential a function of the species as protection. Both carry similar risks of death (women have always died in childbirth in staggering numbers just like soldiers die in war, and both rates of death are drastically reduced with better technology). Both are difficult, real WORK. And if overpopulation is an issue, too many wars is also just as big a problem…
Funny, isn’t it, how differently society treats moms and soldiers? All because one set is doing traditional “men’s work” and the other is doing “women’s work”.
I think this system of patriarchal-communism (or, best-case-scenario, anarchism) within families but capitalism everywhere else is what causes women’s oppression. Pick one economic system or the other, and apply it everywhere!
The way we have it now, businesses and people in power profit immensely from the unpaid labor that allows them to survive but which they never have to pay for. It’s this huge subsidy they get that we never acknowledge. They never have to pay fair wages to the people who created their most important asset – productive workers – from scratch! Businesses also don’t have to pay fair wages to the people who care for the workers they already “used up”… especially true when the whole concept of pensions, however meager, is disappearing. It’s no accident that women are the ones who do all this unpaid work. It’s the last socially acceptable form of slave labor.
But if husbands were to pay wives their half of the fair wages for the service of birthing children, the cost would be indirectly borne by employers who’d have to pay these men more. It makes this form of labor visible in the capitalist economy, as it deserves to be. The same could be done for breastfeeding, and for caregivers within families. Women (or men) who stayed home to care for children or old people would no longer be seen as ‘not working’ because they would be earning a wage and paying taxes and be part of the economy. This work would no longer be a gap in their resumes, but part of the resume itself.
Or else we could go completely the other way, and make the economic system we use within families apply everywhere else. Everybody does their work and everybody shares in the fruits of production 100% equally. Surgeons and CEOs and hedge-fund managers get the same standard of living as farm laborers and clerks and full-time parents and “non-productive” folks like those with serious disabilities. Pipe dreams, I know, but that would really be my kind of world.
So that’s one part of it. The head-in-the-clouds part that’s never going to happen. [Which is why point one in needed.]