In December 1943, the seicho (labour service corps) was formed by the Gunseikanbu (Central Military Administration) throughout Japanese-occupied Singapore and Malaya. The seicho was one of the labour organisations that the Japanese set up to provide supplementary labour for various projects ranging from increasing food production to building infrastructure. The seicho focused mainly on military construction projects such as digging of defence trenches and building of fortifications.
For every group of 150 workers, 20 between the ages of 15 and 45 were recruited into the seicho, and it was estimated that the strength of the labour corps in Singapore and Malaya at the time was about 280,000 strong. When the labour supply started to tighten in 1944, the Japanese responded by forcing male workers out of non-essential occupations such as waiters, cooks, tailors and hawkers so that they could be drafted into the seicho or other labour organisations. The recruitment drive was subsequently extended to include women. To control the supply of labour to the seicho and other labour organisations, the Japanese required all labourers to register and be issued with an Employee’s Identity Book (Romu Tetyo). In Singapore, the registration was carried out by the Tokubetsu Shi (Municipal Administration) and businesses were instructed not to hire unregistered workers.
1. Kratoska, P. H. (2013). “Labor in the Malay Peninsula and Singapore under the Japanese Occupation”. In Kratoska, P. H. (Ed.) Asian labor in the wartime Japanese empire (p. 243); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (p. 215). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
2. Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942–1945 (pp. 145–146). Singapore: National Archives of Singapore. Call no.: RSING 940.53957 LEE.
3. Pillai, P. P. (1947). Labour in South East Asia: A symposium (p. 159). New Delhi: India Council of World Affairs. Call no.: RCLOS 331.0959 PIL; Turnbull, 2009, p. 215.
4. Kratoska, 2013, pp. 243–248.
5. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history (pp. 186–187). St Leonards, N. S. W.: Allen & Unwin. Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.