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Was the wage burden too heavy? - Settler farming, wages and the profitability of settler agriculture in colonial Malawi, c 1900-1960

Green, Erik LU and Bolt, Jutta (2013) 9th Frontier in African Economic History Workshop
Abstract
The historical role of European farming in southern and central Africa is a delicate matter that has received a great deal of attention among scholars over the years. Going through this vast literature a striking consensus emerges: success or failure of European farming in southern Africa was to a large extent depending on their access and control over labour. These propositions have so far never been systematically and empirically tested. This paper is an attempt to do that by analyzing the ‘wage-burden’ European settler farmers faced. The wage-burden is identified by measuring wage shares (total amount paid in the form of wages as a share of total profits) on European farms in colonial Africa. Based on archival documents we construct... (More)
The historical role of European farming in southern and central Africa is a delicate matter that has received a great deal of attention among scholars over the years. Going through this vast literature a striking consensus emerges: success or failure of European farming in southern Africa was to a large extent depending on their access and control over labour. These propositions have so far never been systematically and empirically tested. This paper is an attempt to do that by analyzing the ‘wage-burden’ European settler farmers faced. The wage-burden is identified by measuring wage shares (total amount paid in the form of wages as a share of total profits) on European farms in colonial Africa. Based on archival documents we construct time-series for value of output, transportation costs, investments and wage shares for European tobacco and tea farms in colonial Malawi. Our estimates show that the wage burden decreased significantly after 1930s, i.e. the European farmers were able to capture a larger part of the rent over time. We argue that the developments cannot be explained by domestic colonial policies, but changes in regional migration patterns, which had a significant impact on the supply of farm labour. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
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Contribution to conference
publication status
submitted
subject
keywords
Colonialism, settler agriculture, exploitation, labour, Malawi
conference name
9th Frontier in African Economic History Workshop
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d1fb9709-1c25-4ab1-babd-5341f7090aa3 (old id 4390985)
date added to LUP
2014-04-07 13:41:52
date last changed
2016-04-16 12:07:02
@misc{d1fb9709-1c25-4ab1-babd-5341f7090aa3,
  abstract     = {The historical role of European farming in southern and central Africa is a delicate matter that has received a great deal of attention among scholars over the years. Going through this vast literature a striking consensus emerges: success or failure of European farming in southern Africa was to a large extent depending on their access and control over labour. These propositions have so far never been systematically and empirically tested. This paper is an attempt to do that by analyzing the ‘wage-burden’ European settler farmers faced. The wage-burden is identified by measuring wage shares (total amount paid in the form of wages as a share of total profits) on European farms in colonial Africa. Based on archival documents we construct time-series for value of output, transportation costs, investments and wage shares for European tobacco and tea farms in colonial Malawi. Our estimates show that the wage burden decreased significantly after 1930s, i.e. the European farmers were able to capture a larger part of the rent over time. We argue that the developments cannot be explained by domestic colonial policies, but changes in regional migration patterns, which had a significant impact on the supply of farm labour.},
  author       = {Green, Erik and Bolt, Jutta},
  keyword      = {Colonialism,settler agriculture,exploitation,labour,Malawi},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Was the wage burden too heavy? - Settler farming, wages and the profitability of settler agriculture in colonial Malawi, c 1900-1960},
  year         = {2013},
}