Exploitation or Expectation?

Child Labor in Japan's Coal Mines before World War II

Author: Sachiko Sone


Child labor was employed to one degree or another and at various stages in the history of all of Japan's coalfields, but it was more prevalent and more persistent in the Chikuho region than elsewhere. A feature of Chikuho, the nation's largest coal producer, was its small, typically family-based, mines. As the "sweated trades" of the coal mining industry, these small mines tended to be overlooked by national surveys. This article supplements official records with information from alternative sources to show that the incidence of child labor was influenced by a multitude of factors, including history, social structure, geology, labor laws, educational opportunity, family economics, and company recruitment strategies, and that child labor persisted long after its official demise. Whether this labor was exploitative of children by employers, or parents, or both, is examined.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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© Arthur Jones, PhD