A Short Economic History of Modern Japan, 1867-1937

By G. C. Allen | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII
Industry and Agriculture, 1914-32

THE unbalanced development that occurred between 1914 and 1919 left Japanese industry with serious problems of adjustment, which the financial troubles of the early twenties did not help to overcome. Japanese industrialists, indeed, were inclined in subsequent years to look back on the whole decade as one of stagnation. Yet, in fact, progress was substantial, even if it was irregular and not equally evident in all fields of activity. Furthermore, there were developments in technique and organization which held great promise for the future. In some fields, the post-war decade was one of great development; in others, of preparation for advances to come. From this time onwards, statistical information is more abundant than in the pre-Taisho era. The censuses of 1920 and 1930 provide us, for the first time, with adequate data about the occupational distribution of the population, and attempts have also been made to measure the general economic progress that was achieved during the period. It is convenient to begin this chapter by a reference to the more important facts disclosed by these inquiries.

Between 1914 and 1930 the total population of Japan proper grew from 51 millions to 64 millions, more than 25 per cent. The national income, if we ignore changes in the value of money, increased more than fourfold over this period.1 In real terms it was probably well over twice as great. It is not easy to measure the way in which the different classes in the community were affected by this growth. Japan was applying herself throughout this period to building up her industrial equipment, and the proportion of the national income that was annually invested was therefore high; while governmental expenditure on the armed forces, though it did not increase in proportion to the rise in the national income as a whole, remained considerable. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the real income of the workers grew substantially. Professor Uyeda has estimated that the real wages of the industrial workers throughout the country as a whole, were in 1929 50 or 60 per cent above the 1914 level. The real incomes of the peasants certainly rose to a much less extent; but even the peasants, especially those in the neighbourhood of the industrial centres, were better off than they had been in 1914, except in the bad years.

____________________
1
It was put at 10,636 million yen in 1930.

-106-

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