Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912

Contents:

Author Info

  • Pim de Zwart
Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    Employing recently assembled wage and price data, this paper sketches the long-term development of real wages at the Cape of Good Hope, from its foundation in 1652 up to the unification of South Africa in 1910. The results show that real wages were consistently above subsistence level, and living standards were continuously improving throughout the period under discussion. The comparison with the most developed parts of Europe has shown that during the early decades of the colony’s existence, the Cape labourers had a relatively low purchasing power. Yet, by the end of the eighteenth century living standards began to close the gap, and during the nineteenth century, Cape living standards were on a par with those on the European continent. An analysis of growth rates suggests that during the second half of the seventeenth century growth was minimal. The eighteenth century was a period of steady (though not spectacular) growth of Cape living standards, while during the same century workers in other parts of the world saw their purchasing power diminish. The nineteenth century, on the other hand, was a period of a general rise of prosperity in Europe, in the light of which the Cape’s welfare growth seems exceptionally slow (in spite of secure property rights and resource windfalls). These findings contrast with the conventional view of South Africa’s economic history.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No13.PimdeZwart.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0013.

    as in new window
    Length: 22 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0013

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
    Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords: Colonial history; growth; labour; living standards; South Africa;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

    References listed on IDEAS
    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.:
    as in new window
    1. Allen, Robert C. & Bassino, Jean-Pascal & Ma, Debin & Moll-Murata, Christine & Zanden, Jan Luiten van, 2009. "Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738-1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India," CEI Working Paper Series 2009-03, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    2. Willem H Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2008. "The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis," Working Papers 23/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Allen, Robert C. & Bengtsson, Tommy & Dribe, Martin (ed.), 2005. "Living Standards in the Past: New Perspectives on Well-Being in Asia and Europe," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199280681.
    4. 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.
    5. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925," Economics Series Working Papers 316, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. Sophia du Plessis & Stan du Plessis, 2012. "Happy in the service of the Company: the purchasing power of VOC salaries at the Cape in the 18th century," Working Papers 01/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    7. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940," Working Papers 0002, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Lessons from the Cape Colony
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
    2. Lessons from the Cape Colony
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2013. "Human development in Africa: A long-run perspective," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 179-204.
    2. Sophia du Plessis & Stan du Plessis, 2012. "Happy in the service of the Company: the purchasing power of VOC salaries at the Cape in the 18th century," Working Papers 01/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0013. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sarah Carmichael).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.