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African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940

Author

Listed:
  • Ewout Frankema

    () (Utrecht University)

  • Marlous van Waijenburg

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940," Working Papers 0002, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0002
    as

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    File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No2_.FrankemavanWaijenburg.jan2011.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    2. Robert C. Allen & Jean-Pascal Bassino & Debin Ma & Christine Moll-Murata & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2011. "Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64, pages 8-38, February.
    3. Sue Bowden & Blessing Chiripanhura & Paul Mosley, 2008. "Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries: A long-period approach," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1049-1079.
    4. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
    5. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
    6. James Fenske, 2013. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(12), pages 1363-1390, December.
    7. Frankema, Ewout, 2011. "Colonial taxation and government spending in British Africa, 1880-1940: Maximizing revenue or minimizing effort?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 136-149, January.
    8. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, May.
    9. van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 175-197, August.
    10. Frankema, Ewout, 2010. "Raising revenue in the British empire, 1870–1940: how ‘extractive’ were colonial taxes?," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(03), pages 447-477, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Fenske, James, 2014. "Trees, tenure and conflict: Rubber in colonial Benin," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 226-238.
    2. James Fenske, 2014. "Ecology, Trade, And States In Pre-Colonial Africa," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 612-640, June.
    3. James Fenske, 2014. "Ecology, Trade, And States In Pre-Colonial Africa," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 612-640, 06.

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