CfP for Timeless Wages: Piece Rates in Global Economic History

Benjamin Schneider's picture
Call for Papers
February 18, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Economic History / Studies, African History / Studies, Asian History / Studies, Australian and New Zealand History / Studies, Labor History / Studies

Timeless Wages: Piece Rates in Global Economic History

Session Call for Papers, XIX World Economic History Congress
Paris, 25–29 July 2022
Session Organizers: Benjamin Schneider and Kathryn Gary

The use of wage data to answer major questions about economic growth and well-being has drawn researchers back to original archival sources to better understand the nuances of historical income.  This recent interest has added new occupations to historical wage series, investigated historical working time, and interrogated gradations  of skill, all of which have led to substantial revisions of the foundational long-run series of day wages. This session tackles a neglected challenge: incorporating piece rate earnings, which were common in many places and times. Despite the economic and social importance of occupations paid on piece rates, most historical wage series are based on evidence of time rates, especially by the day, and ignore other measures of remuneration. The prevalence of piece rates in preindustrial and contemporary developing economies means that properly measuring growth, productivity, and living standards in the long run requires a detailed understanding of payment by output and task.

The papers in this session will grapple with the difficulties of measuring tasks, productivity, working time, and comparability in a variety of contexts. They will also address variation in work organization and payment, and scrutinize the implicit assumption that workers could switch between time rates and piece rates. Together, the studies will inform (re)calculations of macro-level growth and measurement of living standards.

We are particularly interested in papers that analyze piece rate work in Africa, Asia, South America, and Oceania. We welcome papers on pre-industrial work, though submissions need not be historical.   

Please send a 300-word abstract of your paper and a single-page CV to and with the subject line “WEHC Timeless Wages”  by 18 February 2022. All submissions will be acknowledged, and we will respond to all submissions by early March.