“Every kid my age should work”: Young People’s Moral Discourses About Work

Wolfgang Lehmann, Western University; Rebecca Raby, Brock University; Jane Helleiner, Brock University

Children and young people’s work is the focus of a well-developed, global and transdisciplinary body of scholarship, but there is little Canadian research in this area, especially on young people’s perspectives on employment. We are addressing this gap through qualitative research about Canadian youth’s first or early paid employment experiences. Based on interviews with young people in three Canadian cities, this paper will focus on the strong moral framing of work experiences, as participants shared an idealized work ethic, and described themselves as gaining skills, freedom, maturity and/or responsibility through their work. We also critically assess how moral discourses about work may contribute to the development of an uncritical neoliberal sense of self in ways that may affect young people’s ability to resist unsafe and exploitative work practices.

This paper will be presented at the following session: