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African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940

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Author Info

  • Ewout Frankema

    ()
    (Utrecht University)

  • Marlous van Waijenburg
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    Abstract

    This paper offers time-series of urban unskilled labor wages and commodity prices in eight British African colonies (1880-1940) and shows that real wages were above subsistence level and rising, especially during the interwar years. Real wages in West Africa and Mauritius were even considerably higher than in some major Asian cities. Our results cast doubt onstudies emphasizing the existence of structural impediments to African economic growth. We also document an East-West divergence within Africa and argue this was caused byvariations in colonial land and labor market institutions, challenging the view that Africancolonial institutions were exclusively extractive.

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    File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No2_.FrankemavanWaijenburg.jan2011.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0002.

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    Length: 32 pages
    Date of creation: Jul 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0002

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
    Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl
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    Related research

    Keywords: Africa; real wages; Asia; labour; commodity prices; labour market; divergence; colonial history;

    References

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 175-197, August.
    2. James Fenske, 2009. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Working Papers 981, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    3. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," MPRA Paper 4134, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Frankema, Ewout, 2010. "Raising revenue in the British empire, 1870–1940: how ‘extractive’ were colonial taxes?," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(03), pages 447-477, November.
    5. Sue Bowden & Blessing Chiripanhura & Paul Mosley, 2008. "Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries: A long-period approach," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1049-1079.
    6. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
    7. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, 05.
    8. Frankema, Ewout, 2011. "Colonial taxation and government spending in British Africa, 1880-1940: Maximizing revenue or minimizing effort?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 136-149, January.
    9. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521687850, October.
    10. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:
    1. James Fenske, 2011. "Trees, Tenure and Conflict: Rubber in Colonial Benin," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Working Paper W, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    3. Fenske, James, 2010. "Ecology, trade and states in pre-colonial Africa," MPRA Paper 27203, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Van Leeuwen, Bas & van Leeuwen-Li, Jieli & Foldvari, Peter, 2012. "Education as a driver of income inequality in twentieth-century Africa," MPRA Paper 43574, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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