Labour market and rising living standards in 1950s western Europe : the case of the Netherlands
This thesis looks at the rapid rise in living standards in western Europe during the 1950s. It argues that this rise occurred as a result of structural changes in the labour force, changes that were associated with the high growth rates and industrial expansion of the period. The thesis looks specifically at the Netherlands, where rising living standards went side by side with wage control. The purpose of wage control was to enable funds to be made available for industrial expansion. The wage control system and industrialisation polices are described, along with critiques that have argued that wage control failed to hold down wage levels. This alleged failure is rejected as the explanation of the rapid rise in living standards. A test of the effect of full employment on wage levels shows that wage rates in a number of industries where demand for labour was extremely high rose measurably by more than they otherwise would have done, but nowhere near enough to explain the rise in incomes during the period. The effects of sectoral change on male incomes are also calculated. Manufacturing increased its workforce during the period by recruiting young workers, new entrants into the workforce, who received higher pay than they would have received working in other sectors. Earnings have a tendency to rise with age, and the combination of these factors resulted in a median rise in male real incomes of over a hundred percent across the 1950s. A contribution to this rise was also made by the movement of older male industrial workers into office work, and by the movement of self-employed craftsmen into industrial employment. The rise in participation of unmarried women, particularly after 1952, increased the amount of earnings brought into households, with the result that household incomes rose even faster than male earnings.