Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Lund Papers in Economic History,
Lund University, Department of Economic History

No 142: Inequality and the working class in Scandinavia 1800 to 1910 - Workers' share of growing income

Erik Bengtsson ()
Additional contact information
Erik Bengtsson: Department of Economic History, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economic History, Lund University, Box 7083, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: One of the major ways in which economic inequality can increase is when the development of wages of ordinary workers trail productivity and GDP growth, meaning that the increasing riches fall in the hand of other social groups (top employees, owners of land and capital). This paper investigates the relationship between wages and GDP in Denmark, Norway and Sweden from 1800 to 1910, using wage series for workers in agriculture as well as crafts and industry. It shows wages trailing especially in Norway from 1840 to the mid-1870s but also in Denmark in the 1850s and 1860s. On the other hand, wages generally increase faster than GDP in the 1880s and 1890s. These developments are explained with labour supply (population growth, migration) as well as class conflict and social policy.

Keywords: Wages; living standards; inequality; working class; Denmark; Norway; Sweden

JEL-codes: E24; I30; J30; N13; N33

29 pages, January 12, 2016

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