A Short Economic History of Modern Japan, 1867-1937

By G. C. Allen | Go to book overview
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Chapter X
Industrial Developments after the World Depression, 1932-37

IN the previous chapter it has been shown that a great expansion took place in industrial production and in the volume of manufactured exports in the years preceding the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Of equal significance were the changes in the relative importance of the different industries and in the composition of the export trade. For several decades before 1929 the trend in industrial development did not alter significantly, and the export trade was becoming increasingly specialized to textiles. Although the scope of Japan's industrial activity was constantly extending, it did not then seem likely that her main industrial interests would alter profoundly for many years to come. Yet when the country began to emerge from the depression it was soon seen that a new course had been set. This is clearly brought out by contrasting the composition of Japan's industry and export trade in 1937 with that of 1929. Some indication of the nature of the change has already been given, since it has been shown that the expansion of industrial output between 1931 and 1937 occurred mainly in the capital goods industries. But a more detailed consideration of the changes is needed for a complete understanding of the industrial history of the period.

We cannot measure precisely the changes in the relative importance of the different industries between 1929 and 1937, because no occupational census was taken after 1930 and because the information provided by the Factory Statistics does not cover production or employment in workplaces with less than five operatives. Nevertheless, the statistics are sufficient to show broadly the extent of the changes, and information derived from them is given in the table on page 138.

There took place a steep relative decline in textiles, while the metal, engineering and chemical groups together raised their proportion of a larger total labour force from just over a quarter to nearly two-fifths. By the end of 1937 their proportion was well over two-fifths. Such figures of the volume of output as are available for these trades support these conclusions. The output of pig iron nearly doubled between 1929 and 1936, while the raw steel production rose from 21/4 million tons to 51/2 million tons, and the range of finished steel products turned out was widely extended. In the chemical industry there was a very substantial

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