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Men at work: Real wages from annual and casual labour in southern Sweden 1500–1850

Author

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  • Gary, Kathryn E.

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

  • Olsson, Mats

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

Abstract

In this paper, we use a brand new dataset to estimate and compare wages for casually and annually hired workers in early modern southern Sweden. We ask whether men in either situation could have supported families on the basis of their earnings. Findings indicate that casual earners would have been able to out-earn annual employees for most of the period 1500–1850, but by the eighteenth century when food prices had risen their relative comfort likely reversed. Similarly, while it was possible for long periods of time for men to earn a respectability basket on the basis of approximately 150 days work this was no longer true by the end of the eighteenth century. By that time, both groups would have increasingly struggled and other family members needed to contribute. Not only is this account inconsistent with the standard story of a nineteenth century male breadwinner family but it suggests that industriousness might not have been prompted by a desire to consume new commodities but by the need to maintain basic standards.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary, Kathryn E. & Olsson, Mats, 2019. "Men at work: Real wages from annual and casual labour in southern Sweden 1500–1850," Lund Papers in Economic History 194, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:luekhi:0194
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. de Vries, Jan, 1994. "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 249-270, June.
    2. Humphries, Jane & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2014. "The Wages of Women in England, 1260-1850," CEPR Discussion Papers 9903, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273.
    4. Jane Humphries, 2013. "The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective: a critique of the high wage economy interpretation of the British industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 66(3), pages 693-714, August.
    5. Lennart Schon & Olle Krantz, 2012. "The Swedish economy in the early modern period: constructing historical national accounts," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(4), pages 529-549, November.
    6. repec:cge:wacage:2015 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Charles Brown, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-134.
    8. Humphries, Jane & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2015. "The Wages of Women in England, 1260–1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 75(2), pages 405-447, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mario García-Zúñiga, 2020. "Builders’ Working Time in Eighteenth Century Madrid," Working Papers 0195, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Gary, Kathryn, 2019. "The distinct seasonality of early modern casual labor and the short durations of individual working years: Sweden 1500-1800," Lund Papers in Economic History 189, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wages; casual labour; annually hired; Early Modern; Sweden;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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