Factory Acts (工場法)

The Factory Acts were a series of acts designed to protect factory workers, children and women in particular, who were forced into hard work during the Industrial Revolution. The framework was to regulate working hours and midnight work.

Factory Act in Japan

By the Second Taro KATSURA Cabinet, this act was established for the first time in reference to "Shokko-jijo" (a report of the actual conditions of the factory workers) edited by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce (Japan), promulgated in 1911, and enforced in 1916. The act had the following provisions.

The act is applied to the factories with 15 or more employees.
Minimum age for employment
12 years old
Maximum working hours
12 hours (limited to children under 15 and women)
Twice a month (limited to children under 15 and women)
Working midnight is prohibited (from 22:00 to 4:00) limited to childredn under 15 and women. However the prohibition was imperfect workers were admitted to work for 14 hours in filature industry and women were admitted to work at midnight in the cotton spinning. In 1923, the maximum working hours were shortened by 1 hour and the minimum age eligible for it was raised from under 15 to under 16. Further revision in 1929 working midnight by children and women was totally banned. In 1947, it was abolished by the Labor Standards Act.

As foreign countries had revised similar acts repeatedly since 19th century, the first International Labour Conventions adopted in 1919 provided 8-hour workday or 48-hour workweek to promote the standard of work conditions and work hours. On the other hand, working hours for male adults was not regulated in the prewar Japan until the enforcement of the Labor Standards Act in 1947.