Exploitation or Expectation?
Child Labor in Japan's Coal Mines before World War II
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.
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