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Wages, labour market, and living standards in China, 1530-1840

Liu, Ziang (2022) Wages, labour market, and living standards in China, 1530-1840. Economic History Working Papers (339). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Historical wages continue to provide new insights into the long-term development of the economy. In early modern Europe, the standard wage narrative hypothesises a “little divergence” in which England and the Low Countries outperformed other economies between 1500 and 1750. However, our knowledge of Chinese wage history remains considerably limited when it comes to the “great divergence” debate between China and leading economies in Europe. This article contributes to building a wage series in Lower Yangzi China from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. It shows that despite the continued increase of nominal wages over this period, real day wages witnessed a sharp decline between 1620 and 1640, followed by a substantial improvement after1650, until a quick decline between 1740 and 1760. A wage gap between the Lower Yangzi and London may open up in the early eighteenth century, but this implication still awaits further examination considering the measurement limits in the current approach.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N30 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: General, International, or Comparative (Migration)
N - Economic History > N1 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Growth and Fluctuations > N15 - Asia including Middle East
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J2 - Time Allocation, Work Behavior, and Employment Determination and Creation; Human Capital; Retirement > J21 - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J3 - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs > J31 - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials by Skill, Training, Occupation, etc.
Date Deposited: 05 May 2022 07:24
Last Modified: 19 May 2022 23:05

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