Dissertation Abstracts

Paid Work of Children and Teenagers in Iceland: Participation and Protection

Author: Einarsdóttir, Margrét , margrei@hi.is
Department: Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, School of Social Sciences
University: University of Iceland, Iceland
Supervisor: Guðbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: child/teenage labor , Iceland , Children's rights , Child labour policy
Areas of Research: Childhood , Work , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


This doctoral dissertation in sociology examines the paid work performed by children and teenagers in Iceland through the lens of the interdisciplinary field of childhood studies, with a focus on their participation and/or protection. The main purpose of the research is to analyse the work of youth between the ages of 13 and 17 years olds, and its implications for their welfare. The study uses a mixed methods approach in which a self-reported survey is combined with group interviews carried out concurrently between 2007 and 2008.
Child and teenage work has traditionally been highly valued in Iceland, and such work for payment is common practice, particularly over the summer months. While findings show that participation in summer work has diminished recently, it is still high, at 84%. In contrast, term-time work has expanded, and 49% of teens undertake such work, 29% of them in regular work. Jobs in the Icelandic work-schools are the dominant kind of summer work young people engage in, which contrasts to jobs in the retail sector during term-time. Term-time work is gender segregated, and a salient age variation appears for both types of work. The participants in the research stated that they work ‘just for the money’, but monetary reasons interplay with independence, consumerism, and responsibility for their own provisions. Children and teenagers particularly emphasise their right to employment and decent pay, rights that are guaranteed to some extent. The Icelandic child labour laws are, however, often breached, at times at the cost of occupational health and safety. Around one-fifth have experienced an accident at work, and some were seriously injured. Those in regular, intensive term-time work are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal pain, especially back pain. But children and teenagers lack interest in their occupational health and safety, and perceive their labour market position as weak.
In conclusion, there is a tension between the economic and physical welfare of working children and teenagers. A reconciliation is needed between the perspective of protecting children and teenagers from work (their right not to work) and their ability and will to participate in work (their right to work). Children and teenagers should be accepted as economic agents who, nevertheless, need special protection in the labour market.