It is believed to be the first settlement of its kind in the country [Photo: Shutterstock]

A husband has been ordered to pay his ex-wife compensation for years of housework as part of a landmark divorce case. The woman is set to receive Sh840,000 (50,000 yuan) - to cover five years of housework she had completed at their family home in Beijing.

It is believed to be the first settlement of its kind in the country and was made in accordance with a new civil code introduced last month. It outlines house a spouse is able to seek monetary compensation from their partner if they have taken on the majority of domestic responsibilities during their marriage.

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The code includes housework chores, raising a child or caring for elderly relatives. According to court documents, the woman - named only as Wang - married her partner in 2015 and had started living separately in 2018.

Their son stayed with his mother Wang, who therefore claimed she also took on most of the childcare responsibilities. Wang's husband filed for divorce last year, with Wang going on to use the new civil code on grounds her husband did not contribute to domestic and childcare responsibilities.

Beijing’s Fangshan District Court directed the husband to pay her monthly alimony of Sh33,000 (2,000 yuan), as well as the one-off payment of  Sh840,000 (50,000 yuan) for the housework completed.

A judge presiding over the case said while a divorce triggers the division of a couple's joint tangible property, housework constitutes as "intangible" property". The judge added: "Housework for example can improve the ability of the spouse to achieve personal, individual academic growth and this is not reflected in tangible property."

The ruling sparked much online debate about the financial value of domestic labour in a family home - whereby in a heterosexual relationship, is mostly shouldered by a woman. Many took a view the sum awarded to the wife was too little. One social media user said: "I'm speechless, the work of a full-time housewife is being underestimated. "In Beijing, hiring a nanny for a year costs more than 50,000 yuan."

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According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women in China spend an average of four hours every day in unpaid labour. This equates to roughly 2.5 times that of men.