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Women’s work and wages in the sixteenth-century and Sweden’s position in the “Little divergence”

Jakob Molinder and Christopher Pihl
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Christopher Pihl: Department of History, Uppsala University

No 227, Lund Papers in Economic History from Lund University, Department of Economic History

Abstract: We use a unique source from the Swedish royal demesnes to examine the work and relative wages of women in sixteenth century Sweden, an economic laggard in the Early Modern period. The source pertains to workers hired on yearly contracts, a type more representative for historical labour markets than day-labour on large construction sites, and allows us to observe directly the food consumed by workers. We speak to the debate on the “Little Divergence” within Europe as women’s work and gender differentials in pay is a key indicator of women’s relative autonomy and seen as a cause for the economic ascendency of the North Sea region during the period. We find small gender differentials among both unskilled and skilled workers, indicating that Sweden was a part of the “golden age” for women. We argue that despite superficial equality, women’s economic outlooks were restrained in many other ways – including their access to higher skilled work and jobs in the expanding parts of the economy – adding important nuance to the discussion about the relationship between women’s social position and economic growth in the Early Modern period.

Keywords: womens work; wages; little divergence; Sweden; gender gap; Early Modern period (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J21 J31 N00 N33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 42 pages
Date: 2021-09-14
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dem, nep-evo, nep-his, nep-hme and nep-lma
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