Collaboration imperative in eliminating child labour: Nxesi

Friday, November 17, 2023

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi says it is imperative to acknowledge the gravity of the scourge of child labour, and recognise the collective duty to strengthen the prevention and elimination of child labour in agriculture.

“The agricultural sector is the backbone of our economy, providing food security and sustenance, as well as livelihood to millions. Yet, it is disheartening to note that some of the very hands that cultivate the crops and tend to the livestock belong to children who should be in schools, not in the fields. This situation is unacceptable and demands our immediate attention and concerted efforts,” the Minister said. 

Nxesi was delivering the keynote address at the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour in South Africa launch event in Sandton, Johannesburg.

The Department of Employment and Labour, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), launched a European Union-funded child labour project that seeks to strengthen the prevention and elimination of child labour in the agricultural sector in South Africa.

To tackle this grave issue, Nxesi said the world must first understand its root causes. He cited poverty, lack of access to education, and limited awareness about child rights as creating an environment where child labour thrives.

Nxesi said the Durban Call to Action adopted at the 5th Global Conference last year in Durban, resonates with this approach, in that it commits different role players to take immediate and effective measures to eliminate child labour.

“Education lies at the heart of this endeavour. We must invest in educational opportunities for all children, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds. By ensuring that every child has access to quality education, we empower them with the knowledge and skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty and contribute meaningfully to society,” he said. 

Simultaneously, the Minister said enforcing existing laws and regulations is paramount. He said that stringent penalties for those exploiting children for labour, coupled with rigorous monitoring mechanisms, will serve as a deterrent to potential offenders. 

Moreover, he said, support systems must be put in place to rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have been rescued from child labour situations, ensuring they receive the care, counselling, and education necessary for their holistic rehabilitation and development.

“Additionally, we must raise awareness about child rights and labour laws within farming communities. Educating parents, guardians, and employers about the detrimental effects of child labour, and the legal consequences associated with it, can act as a powerful deterrent.

“What remains constant in all these endeavours is that collaboration between government, employers' and workers' organisations, civil society, and international agencies is crucial for sharing resources, expertise, and best practices, leading to more effective and sustainable interventions,” he said. 

Nxesi told delegates at the launch that together, they possess the strength, knowledge, and determination needed to create a world where no child is robbed of their innocence, their education, or their dreams. 

“In our quest to eradicate child labour, collaboration is not merely a choice; it is an imperative. No single entity, whether it is governments, NGOs, businesses, workers or communities, can tackle this issue in isolation. We need to join hands, share expertise, and combine resources to create a formidable force against child labour,” he said. 

The Minister said they are thankful to the European Union (EU) for approving the funding of this project, and to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for its continued support in their endeavours to fight the scourge of child labour. 

The Minister said that the project launched today will be piloted in two provinces, that is, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

He urged all stakeholders to continue to collaborate, to innovate, and to advocate, ensuring that every child can grow up in a safe, nurturing environment – free from the shackles of child labour.

“Together, we can create a supportive environment where families are lifted out of poverty, children are educated, and communities thrive. Businesses, too, have a crucial role to play by adopting ethical supply chain practices, ensuring that the products we consume are not tainted with the sweat and tears of innocent children,” he said. 

The Minister concluded that the fight against child labour in the agricultural sector is a moral imperative that demands an unwavering commitment. 

“We look forward to the replication of these pilot projects across the country as a whole, and the eventual elimination of child labour in the agricultural sector – and beyond. 

“Let us stand united in our resolve to strengthen the prevention and elimination of child labour. Let us be the voice for those who are silenced, the advocates for those who are vulnerable, and the champions for those who deserve a brighter future,”  Nxesi said. –