JAPAN IS FACING many challenges when it comes to gender equality. After WWI, economic growth and rapid industrialisation generated a new occupation among middle class men: the white-collar workers. The men earned enough for their wives to stay at home. In this way, the Meiji ideology from the late 1800s and pre-war Japan, Ry Sai Kenbo (Good Wife, Wise Mother), was maintained by the well-educated housewives taking care of the home and raising the children. This laid the foundations for a strongly gender-segregated labour market.
This ideology continues to generate a gender segregation of the labour force in the Japanese society. Although more Japanese women start working, creating new role models for the future, it is still very challenging to combine work with family life. Many women still quit their jobs after they marry and have children. In 2018 Japan ranked 110 out of 149 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap score. However, with the elder boom, declining birth rate and today’s restrictive immigration policy, Japan will soon need more manpower. Here the women can play a key role.
WHEN I TRAVELLED to Japan in 2011, 2012 and 2016, I was excited to hear what the women were going to say about work and gender equality. I wondered how they viewed their freedom in a gender perspective. How did they look upon the future? I met strong, progressive women who welcomed change. Women in the midst of a period of transition where the stagnant, traditional gender roles are being put to the test.
Oslo’s historic harbor is changing before our eyes. The former industrial complex, with its ships, cranes, and storehouses has been replaced by new apartments, culture centers and office buildings. For a decade, Barcode has contributed to a ‘facelift’ of the East End. Whether one likes such ‘facelifts’ or not, the new row of buildings has become one of Oslo’s most important landmarks.
“Everyone” has an opinion about Barcode, and “everyone” has expectations as to what the new district in Bjørvika will become. To whom does it supposedly belong – is it just for white collar and upper class people, or should it rather belong to us all? The public has expressed a certain skepticism to the project. One fears a scenario where wealthy corporations from Aker Brygge expand eastward to take over the whole area. However, when the Sørenga Seawater Pool opened last summer, it attracted visitors from all layers of society. On a hot summer day, the pool worked as a diverse public area in an otherwise homogeneous and exclusive neighborhood.
The project takes the pulse of Barcode, while Bjørvika continues to build its new character. I have explored the architecture and, more importantly, the people using the buildings. The project has been developed in cooperation with the Swedish-Norwegian publisher Arvinius+Orfeus. It has been published in the book Barcode – Instant City, which was released in September 2016.