Labor Report from Meiji Japan (20)
Factory Legislation in Japan
HONGO, TOKYO, JAPAN, October 20.----The subject of factory legislation has come before the public again in this country. Previous attempts by the Government towards enacting the law came to naught with the resignation of Count Okuma during last winter. With the re-entrance of the Count to the Ministry in last July, the work of framing the law was again taken up and completed some time ago. The proposed law is now placed before every Chamber of Commerce in this country for its consideration. It is also to be presented to the coming session of the Higher Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Board. The object of thus placing the bill before the various bodies is, it is said, to enable those bodies to make full investigation upon the subject, and propose amendment, if necessary, so that the bill will be presented to the coming session of Diet, which is to be opened on November 7, with no serious objections from those bodies.
The proposed law is composed of five chapters: (1) Scope of application of the law; (2) Supervision of factory construction; (3) Employment of children and adults; (4) Apprentices; and (5) Factory inspection.
Under the first head, it is stipulated that the proposed law will be applied to factories employing over fifty workmen and apprentices. This scope will, however, be extended to other factories whose nature of work is dangerous or detrimental to health, or where it is deemed necessary to protect and regulate workmen and apprentices.
The second contains provisions subjecting owners of factories to go through a rigid examination by authorities, and requiring safety provisions for dangerous machinery and for preservation of health and morality.
Under the third, several important features for protection of workmen and children are to be noted. They are:
Under the fourth head it is provided that the employer who maintains an apprentice system in his factory must get permission of authorities for rules and regulations governing the system in the factory. Necessary provisions to be made in such regulations are also indicated.
The fifth contains stipulations of the function of factory inspectors.
Considered from the view-point of working people there are many defections in the proposed law. In the first place, the scope of the law is not wide enough to include factories where there exist grievous evils which endanger health of working people. In the second place, those exempt clauses for prohibition and limitation of child labor and suspension of work jeopardize complete abolishment of the evils of child labor and long working hours. In the third place, while the proposed law requires of employer to provided for educational facilities, no punishment is provided for its violation, thus making the provision non-obligatory upon employer. Fourthly, the issue of certificate tends to hinder free movement of workmen while it gives to employer the power to compel his employee to remain under his service through unjust withholding of the certificate.
To remedy the above and other defections, the Rodo-Kumiai-Kisei-Kwai, representing 2,500 iron workers, printers, carpenters and other trades, has proposed the following amendments:
A petition embodying those amendments was presented to the Minister of State for Agriculture and Commerce, while a commitee is now busily engaged in interviewing members of the higher board to enlist their co-operation. Should these efforts fail to achieve their object, petitions will be presented to the houses of Diet when it meets. Furthermore, arrangement is now completed to hold a series of mass meetings to publicly proclaim the demand of working people for legislative protection.
It is hoped that this agitation by the Association will bear out some fruits and the proposed law will come out in a better form.
American Federationist, V, No.10(December,1898).