16.5. Wages, Expenses, and Real Wages for Agricultural plus Non-Agricultural Occupations

Wages indexExpenses indexReal Wages
All occupAll occupAll occup
1770100.0100.0100.0
1775103.0107.595.8
1780109.395.2114.4
1785113.8102.9110.5
1790124.0113.3109.4
1795150.3136.0110.5
1800154.3183.384.2
1805163.9170.396.2
1810172.5190.890.4
1815175.5166.2105.6
1820166.2160.5103.6
1825163.0157.0103.8
1830160.9135.9118.4
1835162.2118.4137.0
1840165.4154.5107.0
1845163.8134.2122.1
1850168.5121.1139.1
1855186.0161.5115.2
1860197.3147.6133.6

The two columns are weighted by the number of persons employed in each sector.

COMPARISON 1770 TO 1860
AGRICULTURAL PLUS NON-AGRICULTURAL WORKERS
1770 = 100 
WAGES                  197
EXPENSES            147
REAL WAGES       133

This average result does not actually tell us more than the two component series. The average value of 130 at 1860 is higher than the two component amounts, because about 30 % of the work force (over the long term) changed from the lower wages in the agricultural sector to the higher wages in the non-agricultural sector.  

Real Wages, This Study and Allen

This studyAllen
Real wage indexReal wage index
1770100.0100.0
177595.896.3
1780114.4101.9
1785110.5104.0
1790109.4103.8
1795110.5102.1
180084.291.7
180596.2109.0
181090.4104.6
1815105.6116.4
1820103.6107.3
1825103.8105.5
1830118.4109.9
1835137.0128.8
1840107.0120.4
1845122.1139.1
1850139.1144.0
1855115.2137.9
1860133.6145.3

a

(The figures of real wages in this study for 1840 and 1855, are artificially low; the cost of living in exactly these years was high, and not representative of the quinquennia)

The high figure of real wages in this study for 1780 is correct; there was an excellent harvest in 1779.

The difference in real wages to 1860 comes from the different starting points in 1770, this study = 19.3 pounds nominal per year (7.4 shillings per week), and Feinstein/Allen = 18.0 pounds per year (6.9 shillings per week). The increase from 1800 to 1860 is 59 % in this study, and 58 % per Feinstein/Allen. The pounds figures are net of an estimation for lost working days.

The presentation of the data in five-year periods hides the large variations in wages and in prices during the decade of the ‘fifties. In 1852-1854 there was a speculative wave in sales of manufactured articles, but linked to an impressive increase in salaries. From 1854 to 1857 there was a collapse of sales and manufacturing, a number of textile companies registered bankruptcy or suspension of activities, and some banks and financial companies failed. At the end of 1857, the situation of liquidity in the country was so fragile, that the Government had to authorize the Bank of England to issue documents without real backing. 

(Gendron, John Henry; An Investigation into Great Britain’s Commercial Crisis of 1857 and the Preceding Business Cycle; Short presentation of forthcoming master’s thesis, Providence College, 2012. http://www2.gcc.edu/dept/econ/ASSC/Papers2013/ASSC2013-GendronJohn%20Henry.pdf)

This description for the fifties is supported by data from the individual years, to be found in George Henry Wood’s article written in 1909: Real Wages and the Standard of Comfort since 1850.

 WagesRetail PricesReal Wages
    
1850100100100
185110097103
185210097103
1853110106104
185411412293
185511612692
185611612692
185711211994
1858110109101
1859112107105
1860114111103

(Wood, 1909, Appendix, p. 102)

And informations as to the average earnings in England in terms of quartern loaves:

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