The Impact of the 1896 Factory and Shops Act on the Labor Market of Victoria, Australia

Andrew Seltzer, Jeff Borland

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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 and employment by gender and age to examine the effects of minimum wages. Although the minimum wages were binding, we find that the effects on employment were modest, at best. We speculate that this was because the Special Boards, which were comprised of industry insiders, closely matched the labor market for their trades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-821
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Economic History
Issue number3
Early online date7 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Australia
  • minimum wages

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