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Working paper

Not backward: Comparative labour productivity in British and Russian manufacturing, circa 1908

Lychakov N., Saprykin D., Vanteeva N.
Using data from official manufacturing censuses, we compare labour productivity in Great Britain and the Russian Empire around 1908. We find that Russia’s labour productivity was at 81.9 per cent of the U.K. level. Russia’s productivity was on a par with France’s and significantly superior to Italy’s. We also find that the majority of Russian industries underperformed British ones. However, the industries that had been established or modernised during the state-induced industrialisation policies of the 1890s, such as the Southern metallurgy, performed on a par with their British counterparts. Russia’s alcohol, tobacco, and petrochemical sectors outperformed their British equivalents. Our findings suggest a revision of the view that, at the turn of the 20th century, Russian manufacturing was economically underdeveloped.