congresos y reuniones científicas
Measuring living standards. Some caveats concerning salary elements in pre-modern Rio de la Plata region, 1770-1830
Conferencia; International Conference Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History; 2016
Institución organizadora:
Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria
Through data fromvarious sources, this paper focuses on the deep contrasts between unskilledworker?s salaries in nearby rural areas of the Rio de la Plata region at theend of the colonial period. Those differences were not only due to aproductivity gap (although it existed and mattered a lot) but also todifferences in a wide range of phenomena: quality and quantity of availablecash currency, gains expected in trading highly mobile goods received as partof the payroll, additional salary elements, and access to credit for extendedfamily groups, secured through a salary-linked debt account.Therefore, the paperseeks to stress some concerns that must be take into account to use thesalaries as a comparative variable.Workers were usuallypart of family groups, more or less extended, not necessarily located in ornearby their workplace. Salaries were so only part of family income. But therest weighted very differently in each place, due to distinct culturaltraditions or economic reasons. This determined very different features forsalaries, and huge contrasts in nominal amounts, or in the part paid out in cash,despite the relatively similar cost of living in this space. Those contrasts,also, warn us on the quality and usefulness of living standard comparisons,when dealing with distant past societies: if even in nearby areas of the sameregion salary differences as expressed in cash payments were huge, what can beexpected when confronting far away countries? How different would be the buyingpower of an individual if we consider all those supposedly side matters? Are weable to accept that cash wage (or salary) would be a universally usefulexpression of purchasing power, or income?