Careers and Wages in the Dutch East India Company

Working Paper No. 12-W08

Claudia Rei


In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, inter-continental trade brought with it a novel form of organizing business: the multinational firm. Headquartered in Europe and operating in Asia, the success of the East India Companies depended largely on the management of overseas outposts, as well as their labor force. Using a dataset of 115 workers hired in Europe to work in Asia, I present the internal structure of civil servants careers and wages in the Dutch East India Company in the eighteenth century. This early modern firm mimics well current theories of internal labor markets: there are stable career paths, fast tracks in promotions, and sizable returns to tenure.

Keywords and Phrases: merchant empires, careers, returns to tenure

JEL Classification Numbers: J31, N33

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