Schoolchildren who combine schoolwork with a part-time job do not appear to suffer from any long-term disadvantage, University of Otago research suggests.
Researchers analysed data from the long-running Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study and 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.
The Dunedin Study has followed the progress of 1000 people born in 1972-73 through to age 38. The new research, which appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health, includes data up to age 32.
Lead author of the research, Dr Ella Iosua, says the researchers 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.