The pay gap between women and men in the 19th century Ghent cotton industry

By Peter Scholliers

This paper examines the pay gap between a category of male and female workers with similar tasks in one enterprise from 1835 to 1914. The payrolls of the Voortman weaving mill in Ghent allow a very detailed analysis of the weekly wages of male and female weavers. In the long run, the difference is barely 2% on average, but in the short term, sizeable differences appear, even reaching 40%. The trend in wages is explained by the general course of business, mechanisation, and the labour market. The explanation of the gaps involves an analysis of the quality, the size and the number of fabrics: male weavers produced larger fabrics (that were better paid) than female weavers, but the latter made more cloths, which ultimately explains the small pay gap.

Go to the article on