Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rachmaninoff and Russian Housewives

Listening to a CD of Rachmaninoff's piano concertos, I picked up today's issue of the Washington Post. Among the usual sections was one titled "Inside Russia". Usually these propagandist inserts get tossed into recycling right away. Not sure if it was the unusual sight of a sympathetic looking Vladimir Putin on the front page or Rach's melancholic Russian strains that compelled me to look further. Quickly scanning the usual flattering pieces about Russia and it's people, I came across one article I knew I'd read start to finish. It's title was Housewives Agitating for Wages, The Russian Budget Could See a New Expense. According to the leader of the proposed union, Marina Raksha, a housewife raising five children, it's purpose is "to achieve official inclusion of domestic-sector workers in the list of professions and acknowledgement of housewives' labor as valuable to society." In hopes of increasing Russia's slumping birthrate, a new law was passed in January 2007, granting Russian women who give birth to or adopt a child after that date -- that child being a minimum of the second child in the family -- 250,000 rubles (about $9,600). The Deputy Chairman of the Duma's (Russian version of Congress) Committee on Constitutional Law and State Construction was quoted saying "The state should pay for the labor of the nation's reproduction." Some have proposed that standards for housewives pay, seniority and pensions should be written into law. A member of the Duma's Security Committee says "husbands should be the ones standing up for their housewives' rights, protecting and financing them; the state is irrelevant here." I'll admit to a chuckle over all this talk about women's labors, but then it struck me; there are still no guarantees in the US for homemakers (a term I prefer) and women still don't earn the same amount as men for the same work. I'll be watching to see how Russia handles this conundrum.

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