Unpaid Domestic Labour
(In Praise of Women, Life, Freedom)
Professor of Economics
Prelude. Factors of production require remuneration to become mobilised: Wage mobilises labour-power; Profit mobilises capital; Rent mobilises land, and Interest mobilises money (the universal form of value); What is the name of the remuneration mobilising the labour which produces, rears, acculturates and reproduces the labour power?
Economics as science of wealth, deals with three Factors of Production: labour, land and capital. There is also a fourth that permeates all three: as education, skill and experience it is merged with labour; as science, technology and ergonomics it penetrates machinery and tools; as science of soil, water, air and plants it sets in the land; and as science of organization, management, synergy of human interactions, it is infused with systems of organisation of work-force, division of labour and the build up of managerial structures. It is thus called “embodied factor” and is denoted as a “residual” in models of development.
With demise of feudalism, villeins were freed from bondage to land and entered into the “labour market” as labour-force to be contracted for work. The land too formed a market and took the form of a commodity and was married to capital, thence economics deals with two factors of production, i.e. labour and capital.
Labour is a process that consists of application of labour-force in a chain of value-creation (valorisation) which is methodical, time-bound and purposeful, during which labour, machinery and raw material ergonomically merge into the intended commodity and service.
Each element of these production factors is priced both at the entry and the exit of the process and the condition for viability of the process is profitability, i.e. the price of the produced product or service (output) exceeding the price of the factors at the door-step of production (input) or at least equalling it, otherwise the process will go bust and would not be viable.
The labour-process takes place within institutions: Farm for agricultural products, Factory for industrial products, offices of diverse kind for services.
Obviously, the different kinds of labour power possess different properties and the homogeneity of money-price would not make different kinds of labour force substitutes for one-another; e.g. 100 dollars of mason’s works would not replace 100 dollars of account’s produce. However, all varieties of labour force possess common properties too: they are all purposeful; methodical; and time-bound, and more importantly, they all need to be re-produced. That is why the labour force of a worker, either in a factory or an office, a teacher, doctor, nurse, engineer, accountant, cook, policeman or an artist, gets exhausted in the labour process and requires a process of reproduction to prepare him/her for a next round of labour.
The process of reproduction takes place within its proper institutions such as home, school, hospital and all sorts of social clubs. But home is distinguished from all other institutions for its unique function of producing the human being and rearing and acculturating him/her to pass into subsequent institutions like schools and qualifying him/her for entry into the labour market. In other words, home produces a product which would at a later stage be employed in the institutions of production and it continues to replenish its labour force intermittently at the end of each labour process when it is exhausted.
Now we are ready to look at the headings of value-added version of the national products accounts: i.e. wage (salary, fee, commission, etc) for labour; profit for capital; rent for constructions, vehicle and hired tools of production and interest for the monetary (universal) form of capital. This is to stress the principle in economics that every factor of production is mobilised and recruited to production process through its proper remuneration: wage brings the labour force, profit mobilises the capital, rent attracts the land and interest pulls the monetary capital into the production process.
Here a glaring exception appears: the combination of labours which produce human being, providing shelter, nourishment and nurturing human being as the bearer of labour-power, has no remuneration in the national accounts. This is due to a bias in economics, i.e. that it equates remuneration with productiveness. This has caused a myopia in the national product accounting in that a good number of services for provision and continuation of life, and contributing to our welfare are being left out of these accounts: the work of a mother within home; the work of cooking, washing, cleaning, nursing, caring and pampering which takes place at home is entitled to no remuneration and on this very ground it is defined as “un-productive labour”
The problem has even theoretical roots which confused Adam Smith and Kark Marx! in struggling with productive versus non-productive labour and paralysed the national accounting system of Soviet Union so much so that they had to resort to the term of “socially necessary but un-productive”.
Let us now cast a glance at the Iranian National Statistics;
Iranian population counts 85.5 million of which 65.5 million above the working age of 15; of which 23.5 million employed; i.e.37%;
of this 63.5 million people of working age, 31.7 million are male of whom 20 million have jobs, i.e.63%; and 31.8 million are female of whom only 3.68 million have jobs, i.e.11%.
The participation rate of women in the labour market in March 2023 was 13.7% implying only 13.7 out of 100 women were employed or seeking a job. Iran’s position in the international ranking of 180 countries on Female Participation in job-market was 177 after Syria ranking 172, Algeria ranking 174, Egypt ranking 175, Afghanistan ranking 176; thus, Iran ranked superior only to Iraq and Yemen, while the world average was 52% and rankings for China, Sweden and Switzerland were 62%
In spite of the fact that the share of female among the university students tilted in favour of the female in 2022, the number of domestic workers among women amounted to 21 million whose production is not reflected in National Accounts for the basic reason that their work is unpaid. And for this very reason, they have no legal right to be insured, to retire, to choose the work or to change it.
Age-wise, 50% of the Domestic Workers aged between 20 and 24 years; with above 5 % aging between 10-14;
Education-wise, 18% were illiterate; 17% had elementary education; 12% enjoyed lower secondary education, 9% higher secondary, 23% had high school diplomas and 20% were university graduates.
With the dawn in Iranian history of a robust Renaissance movement of “Women, Life and Freedom”, the Iranian freedom-loving forces have a bumpy road in front of them before arriving at the sources of modern culture; They would need to unconditionally recognise the dignity of human individual in all its dimensions; to respect the sovereignty of human individual independent of tribal links. ethnicity, and creeds; They would need to practically recognise equality of human beings in the face of law regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or creeds. To do this they would not need to re-invent the wheel because the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the noble heritage of Mankind is the guiding light; in the light of this lofty ideal, the domestic labour would be recognised as an important element of human welfare and would accordingly impart legal recognition providing rights of insurance, retirement and freedom of choice to the willing performer of domestic labour and thus putting an end to the degrading concept of dependency of woman on man, which denigrates and shames man and women equally.
 Presented at the Conference of 27th May 2023 in London titled “The Azure Women” organised by IRANIAN AMERICANS FOR LIBERTY.
 John Maynard Keynes said wittingly “If I marry my maiden, the National Income of the united Kingdom would be reduced”!
 In Marxian Value Theory, a labour is unproductive which is not employed by Capital and does not produce Surplus Value even if it is instrumental in enhancing it.
 Jahan-e Sanaat (The World of Industry),, 2022-11-06, Report by Demographer, Ms Shahla Kazemi.
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