Individual Supply of Labour

  • J. R. Hicks


When an employer hires a workman, he buys work. The wage he is prepared to pay—the price he is prepared to give—depends on the amount of work—the amount of the commodity bought—he expects to receive in return. Other things being equal, a more efficient workman offers more “work” than a less efficient; and he receives higher wages in consequence. In our earlier discussions, we have assumed these other things to be equal, so that the amount of work offered by each man is something fixed, depending on the nature of that man, but not on the conditions on which he is employed. It is now time to drop this convenient simplification. The amount of work a man does is partly a matter of choice, and the amount he chooses to do depends on what he gets for it; if he works under superintendence, the conditions of this superintendence also affect the amount of work he does; and further, his ability to work may be affected by the wages he has been in the habit of receiving in the past.


Marginal Utility High Wage Demand Curve Output Optimum Supply Curve 
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  1. 1.
    See Robbins, “Note on the Elasticity of remand for Income in Terms of Effort” (Economica, June, 1930). In this article it is shown (by turning round the individual supply curve of labour so as to exhibit it as a demand curve for income in terms of labour) that the only natural deduction from the law of diminishing marginal utility is, not that the supply curve of labour must slope downwards, but that this demand curve for income must slope downwards. The elasticity of demand for income in terms of labour must be positive; but this means that the elasticity of individual supply of labour must be either positive or lie between 0 and — 1.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    The classical statement of the theory of “hours” in a free market is to be found in Sir Sydney Chapman’s article, “Hours of Labour” (Econ. Jour., September, 1909). His arguments have been restated by Professor Pigou (Economics of Welfare, bk. iii., ch. vii.). There is very little that needs to be added to the conclusions of these authorities.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© J. R. Hicks 1963

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Hicks
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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