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Two Worlds of Female Labour: Gender Wage Inequality in Western Europe, 1300-1800

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  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt

    (University of Oxford, Department of Economics)

  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

    (Utrecht University)

Abstract

It is generally acknowledged that the degree to which women participate in labour markets and how they are remunerated are important determinants of female autonomy that may also affect their demographic behaviour. Such links have been discussed in the literature about the “European Marriage Pattern” (EMP). In order to bring about the conditions for female autonomy of the EMP (in which women have a large say in the decision when and with whom they marry), women should have had access to the labour market and have earned a decent wage. This is clearly affected by the gender wage gap and the possibility that women earn their own living and have the option to remain single. But so far no attempt has been made to compare the wages of women across Europe over the long run. In this paper we therefore provide evidence on the wages of unskilled women for seven European countries between 1300 and 1800. Our evidence shows that there were two worlds of female labour. In the South of Europe women earned about 50% of the wage of unskilled male labourers. In the Northern and Western parts of Europe this gap was much smaller during late Medieval Period, but it increased dramatically between about 1500 and 1800.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2018. "Two Worlds of Female Labour: Gender Wage Inequality in Western Europe, 1300-1800," Working Papers 0138, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0138
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Kumon, Yuzuru & Sakai, Kazuho, 2022. "Women's Wages and Empowerment : Pre-industrial Japan, 1600-1890," CEI Working Paper Series 2022-05, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    3. Giovanni Federico & Alessandro Nuvolari & Leonardo Ridolfi & Michelangelo Vasta, 2021. "The race between the snail and the tortoise: skill premium and early industrialization in Italy (1861–1913)," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 15(1), pages 1-42, January.
    4. Drelichman, Mauricio & González Agudo, David, 2020. "The Gender Wage Gap in Early Modern Toledo, 1550–1650," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 351-385, June.
    5. Palma, Nuno & Reis, Jaime & Rodrigues, Lisbeth, 2021. "Historical gender discrimination does not explain comparative Western European development: Evidence from Portugal, 1300 - 1900," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 551, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Pim de Zwart & Jan Lucassen, 2020. "Poverty or prosperity in northern India? New evidence on real wages, 1590s–1870s," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 73(3), pages 644-667, August.
    7. Kumon, Yuzuru & Sakai, Kazuho, 2022. "Women’s Wages and Empowerment: Pre-industrial Japan, 1600-1890," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 18/2022, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Living standards; labour market; gender inequality; pre-industrial development;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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