May 24, 2022, 12:45–13:45
Room Auditorium 4
Using new evidence from servant contracts, 1610-1932, we estimate women’s unskilled wages in Japan. Women could only sustain between 1.5-2 people on a bare-bones basket up to 1900 placing them among the poorest in the pre-industrial world. We next show the gender wage ratio was two thirds, much like Western Europe. Despite this, Japan had lower female empowerment for two reasons. First, absolute wages were low so women were not autonomous. Second, landownership incomes were generally earned by men, raising their bargaining positions. Thus, Japan, and potentially China, had much lower female empowerment than Western Europe preceding industrialization.