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Thursday (External) Research Seminar - Applied Economics

25/10/2012 (16:00-18:00)

Unfree Labour: Did Indenture Reduce Labour Supply to Tea Plantations in Assam?

Bishnu Gupta (Warwick University)


Bishnu Gupta is Professor at Warwick University, Department of Economics. Her research interests covers Economic History and Economic Development. Recently she has been working on industrial organization in colonial India, the "Great Divergence" between Europe and Asia, and sex ratios and gender bias. Her research has been published in Explorations in Economic History, Economic History Review and Journal of Economic History, and many more.



This paper analyses the migration of indentured workers to tea plantations in Eastern India in the 19th century. British companies invested in tea production in a region, where labour was scarce and used intermediaries for recruitment. The system came under scrutiny as a result of the harsh conditions of indenture and the abuse of political power by British planters and policy makers argued that this created problems of recruitment. Using variations in contractual arrangements we estimate if planters faced supply constraints in labour recruitment when rising tea prices increased demand for labour. Our findings suggest that although push factors were stronger in determining supply of labour, pull factors were also important in certain types of recruitment. Market driven recruitment was more responsive to increases in demand rather than recruitment through community networks.

Jesper Bagger is co-ordinating this Applied Economics Seminar Series.



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