From Iceland — Ask An Ethics Professor: Why do Icelanders work from such a young age?

Ask An Ethics Professor: Why do Icelanders work from such a young age?

Ask An Ethics Professor: Why do Icelanders work from such a young age?

Published February 7, 2020

Inês Pereira
Photo by
Salvör Nordal

It is inevitable to notice the teens and pre-teens working behind registers and in farms all over the country. We asked Salvör Nordal, Director of Centre for Ethics at the University of Iceland, the origins of this.

“The idea of working hard is deeply rooted in Icelandic culture and it has been generally accepted that it is good for children to experience participating in the labour market from an early age. For centuries, while Iceland consisted mainly of farmers and fishermen, children started assisting their parents or the household at a very young age.

“Until rather recently, the school year was organized around farm work: the school year ended at the beginning of May so children could participate in lambing season and started again mid-September after the sheep gathering. Nowadays, children are encouraged to work during summer holidays and many children, especially those 15 years and older, work 1-2 days a week during the school year.

“It is however important that work does not interfere with their sleep, education and free time. The legislation regarding child labour is twofold: it aims at protecting children from participating in jobs that are dangerous for their well being or interfere with their education and their development and it aims at keeping their job participation within reasonable limits.

“It is furthermore important that special consideration is paid to children in collective wage agreements and that children are aware of their rights. Parents have supervisory responsibility for their children when they enter the labour market.”

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