African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940
This paper offers time-series of urban unskilled labor wages and commodity prices in eight British African colonies (1880-1940) and shows that real wages were above subsistence level and rising, especially during the interwar years. Real wages in West Africa and Mauritius were even considerably higher than in some major Asian cities. Our results cast doubt onstudies emphasizing the existence of structural impediments to African economic growth. We also document an East-West divergence within Africa and argue this was caused byvariations in colonial land and labor market institutions, challenging the view that Africancolonial institutions were exclusively extractive.
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