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A woman working as a cashier in a store at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California. Courtesy of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library via the Mountain West Digital Library. 

Employment at the camps was not mandatory, but most adult internees chose to work. Not only was it a way for them to pass the time and to earn a wage, but also internee employment was necessary for the everyday operations of the camps. The majority worked full-time, usually around forty-four hours per week. At first, internees were not paid for their work, but this later changed. Rates of pay varied depending on the type of work performed and the skill of the worker. For instance, professional and technical work would earn sixteen dollars per month, a mid-range rate was twelve dollars per month for skilled work, and the lowest rate was eight dollars per month for unskilled work. As an added benefit, internees who worked were given a clothing credit of $3.75 month.

Before life in the camps, Japanese Americans made much more money than they did while interned. They also made significantly less than their Caucasian counterparts who staffed the camps. For example, internee teachers at Heart Mountain Relocation Center were paid $228 per year while base salaries for Caucasian instructors set at $2,000 per year.