Independent child migration in Iceland during the 20th century
(University of Iceland)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores the Icelandic custom of sending children from urban areas to farms during the summer months, at times from 4 years of age. The research, which is based on accounts given by individuals who experienced the custom, focuses on the practice from socio-cultural, economic and gendered aspects.
Paper long abstract:
Research on children who migrate without the company of a parent or legal adult guardian is mostly conducted in low-income countries, and such migration is frequently associated with child trafficking. However, throughout most of the 20th century it was a custom in Iceland to send children from urban areas to rural ones during the summer months. All children should learn to attend animals and other work, enjoy nature, get nutritious food, and in general have the possibility to get to now the origin of the Icelandic cultural heritage. It was a common understanding that the summer stays were beneficial for all children, their family and the nation. Delinquent children and those living under harsh conditions, due to for instance poverty or alcohol abuse of parents, were assumed to benefit particularly. Thus, generous citizens, charities, organisations and the child protection authorities organised for children' stay at farms or in summer camps. Some children stayed away from their parents during 3-4 months every year from 4-6 years of age until their teenage, when they managed to get better paid work. This presentation explores this custom based on accounts given by individuals who experienced it first hand. It will focus on their varied experiences of staying with rural kinship members but also unrelated families, as well as the striking gender aspects of the custom.
Independent child migration in an interconnected world