Problems of Professional Disempowerment: An Initial Study of Social Work Conditions in Greenland


  • Steven Arnfjord Institute for Nursing and Health ScienceIlisimatusarfik - University of Greenland
  • Lise Hounsgaard Professor, OPEN, Clinical Institute University of Southern Denmark



empowerment, Greenland, critical social work, disempowerment


This study explores social workers’ experiences in a social service department in Greenland. The social workers described limiting factors, such as an absence of management and a dysfunctional interdisciplinary network. They described feelings of frustration and individualization, which are known stressors. We found that the social workers were in a disempowered position that hindered their management of key welfare services. Serious problems were found that could have consequences for professional social work with clients. By drawing upon the traditions behind critical social work in our discussion of the findings, we have furthered our understanding of the workers’ conditions. We point to issues at local, interdisciplinary, and societal levels. One solution will be to work collaboratively with social workers by using empowerment strategies to strengthen a critical consciousness within the profession. The development of a critical capacity is essential if social workers are to organize anti-oppressive practices and interdisciplinary co-operation, and to engage proactively in the future development of the Greenlandic welfare system. This can be accomplished by working with educated social workers in a union and by introducing more critical understandings at the student level.

Author Biography

Steven Arnfjord, Institute for Nursing and Health ScienceIlisimatusarfik - University of Greenland

Sociologist, Ph.d. Postdoc. Institute for Nursing and Health Science, Ilisimatusarfik - University of Greenland. I was raised in Greenland where I still live with my family. I research and teach social work & social policy.