Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Paper Series in Economics,
Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics

No 18/2022: Women’s Wages and Empowerment: Pre-industrial Japan, 1600-1890

Yuzuru Kumon () and Kazuho Sakai
Additional contact information
Yuzuru Kumon: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH, Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Kazuho Sakai: Tohoku University, Graduate School of Economics and Management

Abstract: Using new evidence from servant contracts, 1600-1890, we estimate women’s wages in Japan. Women’s wages could only sustain 1.5-2 people up to 1900, the lowest recorded in the pre-industrial world. We then show the gender wage ratio was 0.7, higher than in Western Europe. Despite this, Japan had lower female empowerment for two reasons. First, absolute wages were low, so women were not economically autonomous. Second, landownership incomes were mostly earned by men, raising their bargaining positions. The low female empowerment in Japan could explain the early and universal marriage of its women unlike their empowered Western European counterparts.

Keywords: Womens Wages; Empowerment

JEL-codes: N00

Language: English

52 pages, November 16, 2022

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