WageIndicator and International Institute of Social History (IISH)

By Stefano Bellucci | PhD | Head of the Desk for Sub-Saharan Africa & Senior Researcher International Institute of Social History

The International Institute of Social History (IISH) conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations. To conduct this historical research and support other researchers, the IISH collects archives and data from all over the world. Established in 1935, the IISH is one of the world’s leading research institutes on social history. Since 1979 it has been an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Research at IISH: https://socialhistory.org/en/about/research-mission

Collection at the IISH: https://socialhistory.org/en/collections

The initiatives of the Wage Indicator Foundation not only provide an excellent and important service for workers and employers around the world, but also the data collected through the activities of the Foundation represents a tool for labour historians and social scientists interested in labour and economic issues.  In particular, collected information is data with which economists and labour historians can deduce time series and trends on economic conditions, social inequality, and economic history more in general. This information is especially relevant in the African context, as there are relatively few institutions that conduct such systematic data collection on these types of labour-related issues.

Africa at the IISH: https://socialhistory.org/en/projects/general-labour-history-africa

Wages, contracts, living cost etc. are all fundamental elements for the study of labour and economic history at a global level.  A historical dataset on wages and the cost of living around the world could be an important instrument for social science researchers and labour and economic historians.  In Africa as well, free wage labour constitutes, increasingly, the typical form of labour relations, since Africa is today integrated into the global capitalist system of production and exchange.  The dynamics of African capitalism can be understood also from the labour point of view, and not only from the point of view of producers and companies.

The IISH is also an archive which collects documents pertaining to social movements and individuals involved in shaping the life of working people.  In the context of the African continent, the IISH is seeking to collaborate with local institutions and actors interested in understanding how wage workers and their movements and associations have changed their economic systems and societies. In this respect, questions arise as to how the economic context forms the living conditions of workers, including whether, for example, inequality increases or not, and whether precarisation (or liberalisation) is affecting positively or negatively wage-earners and their families.

Some African collections at the IISH: https://socialhistory.org/en/region-desks/africa-desk/collections