IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

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

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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:
Download Restriction: no

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

in new window

Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2002
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2002s-77
Contact details of provider: Postal:
1130 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, suite 1400, Montréal, Quéc, H3A 2M8

Phone: (514) 985-4000
Fax: (514) 985-4039
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

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.:

in new window

  1. Williamson Jeffrey G., 1995. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets since 1830: Background Evidence and Hypotheses," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 141-196, April.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Huberman,Michael, 2010. "Escape from the Market," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521142663, August.
  5. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2003. "Productivity in manufacturing and the length of the working day: evidence from the 1880 census of manufactures," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 170-194, April.
  6. 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.
  7. 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, July.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Linda Bell & Richard Freeman, 1994. "Why Do Americans and Germans Work Different Hours?," NBER Working Papers 4808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2002s-77. 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: (Webmaster)

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.