13 September 2010

Working time before the welfare state and employment regulations

In the dictionary of the workers' movement one learns that the average working day for men, women and children in the early 19th century in France was a striking 15 hours. Bear in mind this is an average, some could reach 20 hours a day. This extreme working time did not suffice to ensure even subsistence nutrition, leading some comentators at the time to declare: "Vivre pour l'ouvrier c'est ne pas mourrir" (page 15).

This rythm was not without consequences, looking at the evolution of life expectancy in some places in France is instructive. In Mulhouse, the average life spans for workers was above 25 years old in 1812, by 1827 it had fallen to 21 years old (page 16).

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