Labour Market Evolution: The Economic History of Market Integration, Wage Flexibility, and the Employment Relation

Labour Market Evolution: The Economic History of Market Integration, Wage Flexibility, and the Employment Relation

Labour Market Evolution: The Economic History of Market Integration, Wage Flexibility, and the Employment Relation

Labour Market Evolution: The Economic History of Market Integration, Wage Flexibility, and the Employment Relation

Synopsis

How have modern labour markets developed? Both labour economists and economic historians agree that it is necessary to look at labour markets in their historical context. Labour Market Evolutiondoes just this.
The contributors examine the operation and development of labour markets in Western Europe and North America since 1500. They address the key questions in this complicated process using new quantitative evidence. First, how closely connected were geographically distant labour markets? Second, how flexible were markets in the past - did wages change in response to demand shocks? Did workers move across space and occupations in response to cyclical or seasonal conditions. Third, were relationships between employees and employers short-term or long-term? Why did relationships change, and what were the implications for the flexibility and integration of markets? In examining these factors, this volume draws on modern labour economic theory and up-to-date quantitative techniques to show how current traditions and systems have evolved.

Excerpt

The McGill Conference on the Evolution of Labour Market Structures, of which this book is a product, grew out of discussions at the Second World Congress of Cliometrics in Santander in 1989, where the large number of papers dealing with nineteenth and early twentieth century labour markets revealed an emerging critical mass of work that may in time alter the way economists and historians view the development of modern labour markets. The intention of the organizers of the McGill conference was to provide a venue for discussing this work, in the hope that it might be possible to draw from it new historical generalizations about the economic history of modern labour markets.

The conference was held in February 1991, in Montreal. Authors were asked to focus on the quantifiable characteristics of labour market structures and to analyse their behaviour over time. The papers in this book thus privilege the analysis of regional labour market integration, job attachments, wage flexibility, hours of work and turnover, neglecting such features as the development of unions and the impact of early twentieth century social legislation on the performance of labour markets, topics that by agreement have been reserved for a later conference.

Conferences, like armies, depend on finance. We thank the Economics Department of McGill University and especially its Chairman, John McCallum, for making it possible to bring twenty-five scholars from North America and Europe for a three-day conference. We are also indebted to the Faculty of Arts and its Dean, Michael Maxwell, for providing additional funds for the conference and to defray the cost of preparing the present manuscript.

The work of arranging hotels, airline tickets, meals, and printing the programme was expertly and cheerfully executed by Cathy ChandlerOliveira and Anne Renaud. Louis Bouchard contributed his time and energy to ensure that papers, projectors and presenters were at the right place at the right time. James Mott laboured at the graphs and verified the data behind them. We also thank the owners and managers of the Hotel Versailles for the flawless organization of the meals and conference facilities.

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