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Hours and Wages in the Depression: British Engineering, 1926-1938


  • Hart, Robert A.

    () (University of Stirling)


On their intensive margins, firms in the British engineering industry adjusted to the severe falls in demand during the 1930s Depression by cutting hours of work. This provided an important means of reducing labour input and marginal labour costs, through movements from overtime to short-time schedules. Nominal wages dropped relatively modestly while real wages continued to rise throughout the trough years of the recession. Empirical work is based on cell data from a panel of 28 local labour markets for the period 1926-38. The data dichotomise between skilled fitters and unskilled labourers and between time-rate and piece-rate workers. The findings have interesting implications for Phillips curve and wage curve studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Hart, Robert A., 2000. "Hours and Wages in the Depression: British Engineering, 1926-1938," IZA Discussion Papers 132, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp132

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Hoel, Michael & Vale, Bent, 1986. "Effects on unemployment of reduced working time in an economy where firms set wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1097-1104, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:dgr:rugggd:gd-108 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jong, H. de & Woltjer, P., 2009. "A Comparison of Real Output and Productivity for British and American Manufacturing in 1935," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-108, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    3. Herman De Jong & Pieter Woltjer, 2011. "Depression dynamics: a new estimate of the Anglo‚ÄźAmerican manufacturing productivity gap in the interwar period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(2), pages 472-492, May.

    More about this item


    hours of work; the Great Depression; British engineering; Phillips Curve; wage curve;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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