II . Outcome of the Study Groups - Summary



1. Female labour in the urban lower strata -- Akimasa Miyake
2. Technological innovation and the female labour force in coal mining -- Yutaka Nishinarita
3. The composition and worker-employment relations in the silk-reeling labour force -- Masanori Nakamura
4. Technological innovation and female labour in fishing and farming -- Kazutoshi Kase
5. Technological innovation of postwar Japan and hired female labour -- Sakiko Shioda

Miyake analyses the changing structure of female employment in the lower urban strata in relation to the progress of industrialization from the Meiji (1868-1911) to Taisho (1912-1925) periods.

Impoverishment of rural villages, on one hand, and progress in industrialization, on the other, increased the population of the urban lower strata during Meiji and Taisho. People in the lower urban strata performed mainly odd-jobs during the early periods, but they were gradually absorbed into the lower levels of the industrial work force as industrialization advanced.

The same was true of female labour. Match and textile companies employed a particularly large proportion of female labour. Japan's match industry at that time was an important exporter. In their germinal stages, textile factories were heavily dependent on lower urban-strata female workers who commuted to work. As the industry developed, an increased demand for labour required that women workers be recruited in more distant locations. The women had to be housed in the cities and thus, a dormitory system was introduced which lowered the dependency on female workers from the lower urban strata.

Match and textile industries shared characteristics of low wages and inferior working conditions. In spite of the disadvantages, many women sought industrial jobs to supplement the family income. Consequently, when the industrial boom of the 1920s caused sharp increases in head-of-household income, the ratio of working wives decreased. The 1920s upsurge not only raised the wages of industrial workers and lowered the ratio of working wives, it reduced the size of the lower urban strata. This effect was, however, short-lived with the lower urban strata expanding in the ensuing series of financial recessions and again in the Great Depression of 1929, repeatedly contracting and expanding afterwards in line with rises and falls in the Japanese economy.

Nishinarita analyses the process from the formation of the female work force in coal mining during the 1900s to the technologically induced decline of the 1930s, The analysis shows that the full-scale formation of a female mining labour force was incurred in the industrial revolution after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). The level of innovation in coal transport was high but much lower in extraction. The demand for planned coal extraction based on mechanized transport transformed the labour force from one of traditional semi-agrarian to full-time skilled miners. However, the delay in mechanizing coal extraction created a need to introduce a method of work in which husband-and-wife teams went into the mines and were responsible for extraction and transport to the gallery. A naya (barn) system was introduced to control teams.

Progress in mechanizing the extraction process during the 1920s, however, eliminated female labour. The series of depressions in the 1920s caused a decline in the coal market which was a further impetus to mechanizing the procedures of coal extraction. Other factors were the demand for management rationalization due to increases in imported coal and the establishment of the mining labour protection laws. Progress in mechanizing coal extraction reinforced capital's direct control over labour and in turn destroyed the naya system. The elimination of female workers from the mines was relatively smooth due to capital's adoption of a "side-business-promotion" policy for dismissed women and a sophisticated labour integration policy which included welfare facilities and solidarity organizations. That one factor for dismissing female workers derived from this policy meant that female coal mining labour could revive again should the policy revert. Thus, the use of female workers was considered an appropriate stop-gap for labour shortages during wartime.

Silk-reeling in prewar Japan was a typical industry for female labour. Using cases from the Suwa region of Nagano prefecture, a centre of the industry, Nakamura clarifies what the actual conditions of female labour were in silk-reeling.

The Japanese silk-reeling industry developed rapidly from the 1880s onward, with concomitant increases in the number of workers: 375,000 throughout Japan at the peak in 1929. Thirty per cent of the workers were in Nagano prefecture and 10 per cent in the Suwa region alone. The majority of work was seasonal and the work force was overwhelmingly composed of young, unmarried farm girls, usually the daughters of tenants or small landowners.

Although a high proportion of workers in Suwa during the early period came from neighbouring areas, an influx from other prefectures increased during ensuing periods due to more wide-ranging recruitment. Recruiting agents were sent to areas of labour supply to secure the needed female workers. Employer and employee signed a work contract, but most contract conditions benefited only the employer. Under circumstances in which there was no free, cross-sectional labour market, female workers were not free wage earners, but were bound to the factory owners so that they could repay loans advanced on labour. Inferior labour conditions, low wages, and long hours were prevalent. The dormitories and systems of surveillance reinforced labour control and a ranked wage system was adopted to intensify labour.

Kase examines the effects of postwar technological innovation on female labour in independent family business, particularly farming and fishing, with the greater emphasis on fishing.

The rapid growth of the Japanese economy in the postwar period radically decreased the number of farming and fishing households and increased the outflow of young and mature males to employment in other areas. The result was an increased significance of female labour in independent family business. One of the most important factors was that technological innovation made farming and fishing manageable to women. Machines contributed most to labour reduction and to the increased significance of female labour in farming.

On the other hand, technological innovation in fishing was diversified according to the type of fishing. The introduction of motorization meant that larger boats could be built. In cultivation fishing, improvements were made in ocean farm and drying technologies. Female workers were important in cultivation and in shellfish and seaweed gathering, but were involved in deep- sea fishing only to the extent that they could substitute for male labour. The work of female members in the independent fishing family was greatly restricted by factors of age, household type, degree of regional labour market development, existence of side-businesses, and type of fishing available. Under the influence of diverse factors, female members in each fishing household chose work they themselves deemed most practical.

Shioda focuses on the period of rapid economic growth to examine the correlation between technological innovation and hired female labour.

The hired female labour force grew abruptly during the period of rapid economic growth allowing married middle-aged and older women to make remarkable advances in the labour market. From the labour supply viewpoint, the main factors for the sudden increase were reduction of tasks within the household and distended family economy due to increased expenses for purchased durable consumer goods and leisure. There was a need for supplementary income and a change in the life cycle of women. The main factors in the increase from the labour demand viewpoint were male labour shortage, progress in automation and mechanization due to technological innovation, and increased employment opportunities for women.

The occupational categories showing marked advances for female labour were manufacturing, clerical services, sales, etc. In form, the proportion of short-term casual employees, part-time employees, was high. Much weight is given to part-time work because the social conditions are not yet adequate for housewives to work full-time and because it is more advantageous for employers to hire inexpensive part-time workers who can be easily fitted into the work schedule.

The majority of female workers are in simple unskilled operations. The mobility rate is particularly high in the direct production sector due to its high labour density, monotonous operations, and high degree of work exhaustion. The wages for women are lower than for men and part-timers receive less than full-time employees. Trends in female labour are important factors in contemporary social change and much attention is paid to female employment as a social problem.