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    Exploring Teenage Employment in Poland: A Common Yet Unofficial Practice

    In celebration of Children’s Day, the Warsaw Enterprise Institute (WEI) took a deep dive into the practical experiences of Polish teenagers working before adulthood. Is teenage employment a widespread phenomenon, or merely a marginal occurrence?

    The latest report, “Children’s Work in Poland: How Young People Gain Their First Job Experiences,” is based on public opinion research conducted by Maison&Partners on behalf of WEI.

    The findings reveal that a significant 45% of adult Poles worked for pay before turning 18. Most took on their first jobs—typically part-time (75% of respondents)—between the ages of 15 and 16. This trend was more prevalent in small towns (54%) compared to large cities (41%), likely due to the availability of seasonal jobs such as fruit picking, which 47% of respondents with teenage work experience reported doing.

    Males tended to start working earlier, with nearly half having their first job by age 15 or younger.

    The primary motivation for teenage employment was the desire to earn money for personal expenses and leisure activities (77%). However, one in four working teenagers today reports being driven to work by their family’s difficult financial situation.

    Three-quarters of those who worked as minors did so on a casual basis, often without any formal agreement.

    It appears that gaining work experience before turning 18 is quite common in Poland, seemingly at odds with Eurostat data indicating that only about 4-5% of people aged 15-19 are employed in Poland. This discrepancy arises because Eurostat’s figures account for formal, full-time employment, whereas WEI’s research highlights that Polish teenagers primarily work in the informal sector, without any official contracts. A staggering 70% of those with pre-18 work experience confirmed this. When formal agreements do exist, they are usually freelance or task-based contracts.

    “Of course, the work of teenagers—or more broadly, child labor—can be viewed in various ways. Certainly, 19th-century standards that allowed young children to work in dirty and dangerous industries would be unacceptable today. Today, we permit children’s work if it is voluntary and serves their development. We also hope it is not a sign of desperation due to difficult life situations, but rather that it builds a sense of responsibility and discipline necessary for achieving important life goals in adulthood. If teenage work is well-considered, has a clear purpose, and does not interfere with education, it brings tangible benefits,” WEI points out.

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