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Real Wages and Relative Factor Prices in the Third World 1820-1940: Asia


  • Jeffrey G. Williamson


By 1914, there were very big economic gaps between the European industrial core and countries around Asia, from Japan to what we now call Pakistan When did the gaps appear? Can they be explained by lags in the diffusion of the industrial revolution after 1780, or did the gaps appear much earlier? What about the first great globalization boom after about 1870? Which countries in Asia started catching up, which fell further behind, and which held their own? What role did globalization and demographic forces play? Conventional quantitative evidence, like Agnus Maddison's GDP data, is often too incomplete to confront these central questions. In an effort to suggest a new research agenda for the region, this essay uses a new data base on real wages and wage/rental ratios for thirteen major Asian regions -- Burma, China, India (North, South, East and West), Indonesia (Java and Outer Settlements), Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. These thirteen regions, often documented from as early as 1820, form the data base for the paper, and they are well balanced among the three major areas consisting of South Asia (four), Southeast Asia (five) and East Asia (four) so that we can say something about "north-south gaps" within the region, as well as between it and the European core.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1998. "Real Wages and Relative Factor Prices in the Third World 1820-1940: Asia," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1844, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1844

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