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Working Hours of the World Unite? New International Evidence on Worktime, 1870-1900


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  • Michael Huberman



Assembled by Angus Maddison, the most widely consulted data set on worktime in the long nineteenth century is seriously flawed, because it assumes all countries had British work hours. This paper constructs new measures of worktime in Europe, North America and Australia between 1870 and 1900. With the exception of Great Britain and Australia, work hours were very long. Trends in worktime varied across countries. The length of the workweek was inversely related to the level of income, but there was only a modest tendency toward convergence or catch-up as theory anticipates. National work routines and laws restricting working hours explain some of the divergence, but sectoral effects operated in the other direction. Competing-goods industries, like textiles, saw a race to the bottom. Because long hours were a source of competitive advantage, even the Lancashire textile worker set his watch to Italian time. Le plus connu des corpus de données sur le temps de travail au cours du long dix-neuvième siècle, réuni par Angus Maddison, est sérieusement erroné, car il présume que tous les pays avaient les mêmes heures de travail que celles des Britanniques. Cet article présente de nouvelles mesures du temps de travail pour l'Europe, l'Amérique du Nord et l'Australie, entre 1870 et 1900. À l'exception de la Grande-Bretagne et de l'Australie, les heures de travail étaient très longues, avec des rythmes de décroissance différents selon les pays. La longueur de la semaine de travail était inversement proportionnelle au niveau de revenu, mais avec une légère tendance convergente ou un rattrapage tel que la théorie le prévoyait. Les routines de travail et les lois régissant les heures de travail expliquent certaines différences, mais les particularités sectorielles vont dans le sens opposé. Au sein des industries concurrentielles, comme les textiles, il y avait un nivellement par le bas. Comme les longues heures de travail constituaient un avantage compétitif, même le travailleur du textile au Lancashire a dû ajuster sa montre à l'heure italienne.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2002s-77.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2002s-77

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Keywords: Globalization; international trade; work hours; economic integration; Mondialisation; commerce international; temps de travail; intégration économique;

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  1. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures," Macroeconomics 0012003, EconWPA.
  2. Huberman,Michael, 2010. "Escape from the Market," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521142663, October.
  3. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1992. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets Since 1830 Background Evidence and Hypotheses," NBER Historical Working Papers 0036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1992. "How Long Was the Workday in 1880?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(01), pages 129-160, March.
  5. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650592, December.
  6. Voth, Hans-Joachim, 1998. "Time and Work in Eighteenth-Century London," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(01), pages 29-58, March.
  7. Gregory Clark & Michael Huberman & Peter H. Lindert, 1995. "A British food puzzle, 1770–1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(2), pages 215-237, 05.
  8. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1990. "One Market or Many? Labor Market Integration in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 85-107, March.
  9. Clark, Gregory, 1987. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(01), pages 141-173, March.
  10. Crafts, N. F. R., 1997. "The Human Development Index and changes in standards of living: Some historical comparisons," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(03), pages 299-322, December.
  11. Linda Bell & Richard Freeman, 1994. "Why Do Americans and Germans Work Different Hours?," NBER Working Papers 4808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Paul Levine & Peter McAdam & Peter Welz, 2013. "On Habit and the Socially Efficient Level of Consumption and Work Effort," School of Economics Discussion Papers 0713, School of Economics, University of Surrey.


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