In Search of Work in Europe, 1800-2000

Jan LucassenIn Search of Work in Europe, 1800-2000 This IISH Research paper is published as PDF file
(75 pp., 665 Kb.).

Ever since 1800 more and more Europeans became wage labourers, even though the trend was neither unilinear nor irreversible.
In the first section of this article the author discusses shifts between wage labour on the one hand, and the entrepreneurial status as well as non-labour (children and old-aged persons) on the other; between the reproductive and the productive status; and between free and unfree labour (including conscripts, prisoners, inmates of concentration camps). Examples are taken not only from Northwestern Europe, but also from Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
The second section outlines the history of mobility and migration, including changes of residence (emigration), temporary migration and commuting, and job rotation. A crucial element in this story is the tension between the growing technical possibilities to travel from the early nineteenth century on and the restrictions imposed on the free movement of workers by governments.
In the third section Lucassen discusses different modes of job mediation within their historical context: personal mediation, professional networks (including the guilds and the professions), and impersonal mediation (including the trade unions and employers organizations, labour exchanges, employment agencies, and job fairs).
The fourth and last section deals with the pretensions of labour market policies. Starting from the traditional interpretation of unemployment as part of the local poverty problem, in the Interbellum and particularly during the Great Depression most governments came to accept the primacy of politics over economics in order to attack labour market problems. The apotheosis of this approach was the post-war Welfare State, which was thoroughly reconsidered in the last quarter of the century.

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