November 2016

IZA DP No. 10388: The Impact of the 1896 Factory and Shops Act on Victorian Labour Markets

published in: Journal of Economic History, 2018, 78 (3), 785-821

This paper examines the effects of the Victorian Factory and Shops Act, the first minimum wage law in Australia. The Act differed from modern minimum wage laws in that it established Special Boards, which set trade-specific minimum wage schedules. We use trade-level data on average wages, employment, and other outcomes to examine the effects of changes in minimum wages. Although the minimum wages were binding, we find that the effects on employment and other outcomes were modest. We speculate that this was partly because the Special Boards, which were comprised mostly of employers and union officials, followed labour market conditions when setting wages for their trades.