Increasingly harder for teens to find employment

June 24, 2017 - 06:20

Or don’t Norwegian kids want to bother with work because their parents have become filthy rich?

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Sonja Ranta and Louice Fogel from Sweden found jobs at a bakery in Oslo. Good for them. However, this might have made it harder for local teenagers from getting a part-time job or a summer job. (Photo: Berit Roald / NTB Scanpix)

Teenagers in Norway have traditionally held down part-time jobs and/or summer jobs.

Boys in particular now find it harder to make their own pocket money.

In 1998 nearly 75 percent of all 17-year-old boys had a summer job or a part-time job that paid wages.

In 2015 less than half of boys this age had paying work of any kind.

Boys find it hardest

Just 20 years ago there were more teen-age boys than teen girls who had their own incomes.

Now the tables have turned. At age 16-17, some 56 percent of girls are earning their own cash, while 48 percent of boys, according to Statistics Norway’s (SSB’s) figures for 2015.

SSB has just released these figures for youth employment during summer holiday as well as part-time jobs during the school year.

Toughest in Oslo and Akershus

When teenagers have their own incomes they usually don’t rake in huge amounts of dough.

The average income from own labour for a 17-year-old in 2015 was NOK 29,000, or about $3,400. Most of the kids made less than NOK 55,000 ($6,400), which is the upper limit one can earn without having to pay income tax.

The statistics also show that teenagers outside the big cities find it easiest to get part-time and summer work. The counties with the proportionately largest numbers of such job opportunities are sparsely populated and rural ― Finnmark in the far north and Sogn og Fjordane on the southwest coast.

The competition for such jobs is toughest in Oslo and the other major cities. Teenagers in Akershus County and Østfold County also find part-time and summer jobs scarce.

Young Swedes took them

With less Norwegian kids holding down jobs there are clearly fewer jobs to hold. What happened? 

“An increasing number of jobs require some form of education or special competence. There are steadily fewer of the kinds of jobs out there that school kids used to fill,” says Bernt Bratsberg a researcher at the University of Oslo’s Frisch Centre.

“Another factor is immigration. Thirty years ago there were few others who competed with Norwegian teens for the non-skilled jobs. In the past few years the youngsters have had to compete with immigrants who have refugee backgrounds and with Swedish youth.

“Young Swedes looking for work have not spread out evenly across the country. Very many came to Oslo and helped make it extra difficult for teenagers in the capital to find retail jobs,” explains Bratsberg.

Lacking gumption?

The average Norwegian has grown much wealthier in the past couple of decades.

One question that many have asked themselves is whether Norwegian teenagers – especially the boys – have become spoiled and simply can’t be bothered to work because their parents give them money.

The fresh figures from SSB can answer that question.

Children of the better off work most

It turns out that the teenagers who work the most in part-time and summer jobs come from families in the higher income brackets.

Youngsters whose parent earn average or higher than average incomes work more than others their age. The exceptions are the children of the five percent richest families. These wealthy teenagers do not work as much as the middle class kids, but they still work more than the average among youth as a whole in Norway.

The teens who find the fewest job opportunities come from low-income households.

So the SSB statistics appear to blow away the notion that children with poor parents are taking on work outside of school hours to fill purses and wallets with the kind of cash carried by friends from wealthier homes.

The SSB figures seem to confirm another hypothesis: If mum and dad make a lot of money they tend to have larger networks and know more adults. They have connections which make it easier for their sons and daughters to land part-time or summer jobs.

“I am strongly convinced that this is the case,” says Bratsberg.

Few immigrant teenagers have jobs

Just half as many youngsters with immigrant backgrounds earned their own money in 2015, as compared with their contemporaries whose parents had not immigrated.

Many factors could be contributing to so few young people with immigrant backgrounds in Norway earning their own money. One is simply that many of these kids live in Oslo or the large cities or in Akershus or Østfold – places where young people generally find such jobs hard to get.

In addition, many immigrant teenagers come from families with low incomes and perhaps their mothers and fathers are also unemployed or under-employed. Their situation and luck in finding part-time work is at least as hard as it is for teens from Norwegian families in this lower income bracket.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

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Translated by
Glenn Ostling