x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Put her on the payroll?

The prospect of paying their wives salaries is unlikely to go down well with working Indian men.

An Indian government ministry is proposing legislation by which husbands would in effect pay their wives a salary. In households where the woman stays home while the man has a job, he would be required to give her a share of his income.

Even the most devoted supporters of equal rights for women will look with some scepticism at this notion. True, some countries have studied the idea of a wage for housework, but this would be paid by government, not husbands. Indian critics note that the proposed law mentions no reciprocal provision when a househusband is supported by a working wife. And India's extended-family households would complicate enforcement of any such law.

Beyond the practical considerations, however, the proposal gives rise to some other questions. How would the wage be set? Collective bargaining, involving cousins, aunts, children and mothers-in-law, might not exactly increase domestic tranquillity. Could wives subcontract out the cooking or the washing? Would there be provision for profit-sharing if the husband gets a bonus? What if he loses his job?

Responsible husbands strive to provide for their families, other husbands do not. India's lawmakers must have better things to worry about.