Why shouldn’t we be able to insure domestic labour?
A story recently published on news.com.au about a policy from Million Dollar Woman offering stay at home parents compensation if they are unable to work, totally bemused me. Well not so much the story, which was great. It was the accompanying poll that grabbed my attention. The poll simply asked “Should stay-at-home mums be compensated if they get sick?”
Now given that in order to receive the compensation you have to have taken out an insurance policy to the tune of $40 or $60 a month for the Day-to-Day Living Expenses Cover to pay you either $1,000 or $1,500 fortnightly, it seems a no-brainer to me. Absolutely I say, compensate.
This is a simple insurance policy protecting in most cases the primary care giver in the family. It is not subsidised by the tax payer. It costs us nothing. So given that it is a self-funded voluntary insurance, why would anyone respond to that poll question with a No?
Well, when I took the poll, a staggering 38% of respondents actually said No. The “no” result is as high as 65 per cent on some other websites.
Now, granted it was an excruciatingly small sample size and some people probably responded without reading the details of the policy but I think it runs deeper than that. I think it is largely indicative of how undervalued women’s contribution to unpaid work remains in this country.
Some of the comments on the story confirm my assumptions.
“What, because the husbands or partners can’t take over the house chores? Is this for real? I can see lots of greedy women being “too sick” and taking advantage of this, and keeping the $25K”
“If a man is sick does this insurance also cover ‘Mowing the lawn’, ‘fixing the car’, ‘painting the fence’, ‘cleaning the gutters’, ‘catching spiders’ and all the chores men ‘traditionally’ do? If a working mum is sick does she get sick leave from work, on top of the $900/week insurance? This is rediculous.”
“Wait A Minute, so if they aren’t able to clean the toilet, make the kids beds, take to school, simple chores, then they get $900. Really.”
“Sorry but taking care of a household is not a full time job. Even with kids.. Would require maybe 3 hours a day…. what a joke.”
I would suggest that it is precisely because partners don’t or can’t take over the household chores that these types of insurances evolved in the first place and it borders on the ridiculous to compare catching spiders to raising children. Spiders are far more co-operative and they don’t answer back.
It is one thing to vote against tax payers shouldering yet another societal burden, and something else entirely to suggest that women shouldn’t be compensated by their own insurance policy in the event of a long-term debilitating illness preventing them from working.
The policy stipulates that you must be unable to do two or more tasks such as caring for children under the age of 12, cooking and preparing meals or cleaning the house for more than 14 consecutive days and it requires medical certification.
Why is it important to recognise the value of unpaid work?
Gender aside, could the primary earner in your household afford to take two or more weeks off from work to care for young children and maintain the home if the primary homemaker were unable to?
While it remains invisible, unpaid domestic work will have no impact on politicians and economists who develop and plan appropriate policies, policies that include taxation, welfare and superannuation.
The latest statistics from the ABS (1997) put the value of unpaid work at about $261 billion, equivalent to about 48 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
$261billion! Worth insuring, I think. Don’t you?
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