Statute of Labourers 1351

Statute Of Labourers 1351

Statute of Labourers 1351

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The Statute of Labourers was a law enacted by the English parliament under King Edward III in 1351 in response to a labour shortage, designed to stabilize the labor force by prohibiting increases in wages and prohibiting the movement of workers from their home areas in search of improved conditions. It was introduced by John Hale.

Background

The Black Death or Bubonic Plague, which killed more than one-third of the population of Europe (mostly peasants), caused a dramatic decrease in the supply of labour. Landowners suddenly faced a sharp increase in competition for workers. Labourers had increased bargaining power and commanded higher wages. The increase in labour cost also led to inflation throughout the economy. The elite class lamented the sudden shift in economic power. In an attempt to control labour costs and price levels, Edward III issued the Ordinance of Labourers in 1349. Parliament attempted to reinforce the Ordinance with the Statute of Labourers.

Overview

The statute set a maximum wage for labourers that was commensurate to wages paid before the Black Death, specifically, in the year 1346. These changes, however, failed to take into account the changing economic conditions during the Black Death, and furthermore the period from which wage levels were taken was one of economic depression in England as a result of The Hundred Years' War. Therefore, wages during the Black Death were set even lower to match those during this depression....
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