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

Steven Arnfjord, Lise Hounsgaard


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.


empowerment; Greenland; critical social work; disempowerment

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