Workshop: The Global and Long-term Development of Real Wages: Methods, Problems and Possibilities
Real wages are a critical measure for human well-being. In recent years much progress has been made in making real wages comparable over time and space. Calculating real wages based on 'bare bones' and 'respectability' baskets, as pioneered by Bob Allen, has now become a widely used methodology.
The studies that have appeared now allow us to compare living standards in Europe, Turkey, China, Japan, India, the Americas, and various African colonies. These studies have important implications for the big debates on the Great Divergence between Europe and Asia, and the long-term economic effects of colonialism in Africa and the Americas. Nonetheless, the use of real wages to make statements about the standard of living and economic development in past societies has also been criticized. Critics have pointed, for example, to issues regarding the representativeness of wage labour, the underlying dynamics of the labour market, and the role of female labour.
In this workshop, experts working with wage and price data across the globe will be brought together. New results will be presented and possible methodological issues as well as the broader implications and possibilities of this type of research for the field of economic history are discussed.