Japanese Labor in the Hawaiian Sugar Industry

Date
2014-01-15
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Kidoguchi, Karen
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Economics
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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During the spring semester of 1977, I took a course fro Professor Mak entitled the ‘Hawaiian Economy.’ One of the subjects we covered was the growth of the Hawaiian sugar industry. In the course of reading about the history of the sugar industry, I became particularly interested in the chapter dealing with the importation of foreign contract laborers. Faced with a rapidly expanding sugar industry amid a declining native population, the sugar planters and the Hawaiian government looked towards the importation of foreign laborers as the only possible means of securing an adequate supply of labor essential to the well being of the sugar industry. Thus, was instituted under government auspices a system of assisted immigration which tapped the labor resources of almost every part of the world in its search for satisfactory labor in Hawaii. Yet, after the signing of the Emigration Convention between Japan and Hawaii in 1886, and especially after the passage of the Chinese restriction act by the local government in 1887-1888, the majority of the laborers coming to Hawaii were Japanese. In the first part of this thesis, I will attempt to present a study of the chronological development of the Japanese labor force in the Hawaiian sugar industry. The methodology is essentially that of historical research. The period under consideration is from 1868 and the arrival of the ‘First Year People’ to 1924 when all further emigration from Japan was ceased with the enforcement of the Federal Immigration laws. In the second part of this thesis, I will explore the question of ‘how profitable was it for the sugar planters to import Japanese contract laborers to the Islands under the Convention-control System.’ Specifically, I shall attempt to measure the profitability of Japanese contract labor importations in terms of modern capital theory.
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