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Deskilling and decline in skill premium during the age of sail: Swedish and Finnish seamen, 1751–1913

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  • Ojala, Jari
  • Pehkonen, Jaakko
  • Eloranta, Jari

Abstract

The study examines the evolution of skill premium and share at industry level in shipping during the age of sail. We argue that the period from the 1750s to the 1910s represented deskilling for the seamen working in sailing ships. The growth of international trade and shipping during the first era of globalization increased the overall demand for sailors but decreased the relative demand for skilled labor in favor of less skilled ones. This deskilling was associated with a decline in wage inequality, as the premium for high skilled seamen fell relative to mean wages in the shipping industry. The decline in skill premium may have facilitated the growth of trade and shipping, as the relative costs of transport declined. This in turn might have hastened the first era of globalization.

Suggested Citation

  • Ojala, Jari & Pehkonen, Jaakko & Eloranta, Jari, 2016. "Deskilling and decline in skill premium during the age of sail: Swedish and Finnish seamen, 1751–1913," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 85-94.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:61:y:2016:i:c:p:85-94
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2016.05.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Occupations; Skill premium; Deskilling; Technological change; Maritime history;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N74 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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