NZ school children not disadvantaged by part-time work

Tuesday 29th July 2014

New research from the Dunedin Study found that schoolchildren who combine schoolwork with a part-time job do not appear to suffer from any long-term disadvantage.

When analysing data from the Study up to age 32, researchers found that the paid employment of schoolchildren was not associated with any long-term harmful effects on their wellbeing, education or with increased drug use.

Lead author of the article which appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Dr Ella Iosua, says they found that many children in the Study did do part-time work while they were school students. At age 11, just over 5% did such work, while 26% and 42% worked part time at ages 13 and 15 respectively.

“Study members who had part-time jobs between ages 11 and 15 years were not more likely to suffer negative outcomes in psychological wellbeing or academic qualifications by age 32. Nor did such work make them more likely to smoke, drink alcohol excessively, or regularly use cannabis in adulthood,” Dr Iosua says.

New Zealand is one of the few countries that have not ratified the United Nations’ recommendations to prevent children from having a part-time job before the legal school-leaving age of 16 years.

Dr Iosua says the study findings support the New Zealand government’s position that children are adequately protected by the current legislation.

Despite concerns that this may interfere with schoolwork and expose children to harmful behaviours such as smoking, drinking and drug use, many parents and children hold the view that having part-time work is beneficial.

“Our findings can help provide reassurance that moderate part-time work is unlikely to be detrimental in countries like New Zealand,” she says.

Dr Iosua cautions, however, that this may not apply to long hours of work or unsafe working conditions in societies with lower levels of child protection.

Iosua, E., Gray, A. R., McGee, R., Landhuis, C. E., Keane, R., and Hancox, R. J.  Employment among schoolchildren and its associations with adult substance use, psychological wellbeing, and academic achievement. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2014,  avilable online    

For further information, contact:

Dr Ella Iosua
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
University of Otago

Associate Professor Bob Hancox
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 8512