The emergence of trade unions

Authored by: Christopher Gerteis

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



This chapter surveys the development of Japanese trade unions from the period 1900–2000. The expansion of Japanese industry after World War I combined with a relaxation of state proscriptions on union activities to foster a labour movement. State antagonism during the 1930s banned trade unions in 1940 and replaced them with quasi-fascist tri-partite labour commissions that encouraged worker collective identity even as they asserted state supremacy. The legislation introduced during the Allied occupation of Japan (1945–52) allowed labour unions to organize, strike, and engage in collective bargaining. However, unions that formed in the mid-1950s were characteristically enterprise-centred organizations, where union leaders and managers collaborated to promote full-time employment as an all-male domain. However, the 1999 revision of the Equal Opportunity Employment Law enabled women to fight for equality in the workplace. Subsequently, Japan’s first women-only unions were organized. By the year 2000 conventional trade unions represented less than 20 per cent of the workforce.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.