Unite to curb alarming child labour figures

Friday, August 17, 2018

Society needs to unite in combatting and reducing high child labour statistics, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on the National Day Against Child Labour on Friday.

The Minister said the phenomenon of child labour was at frightening proportions globally. The picture was particularly grim in countries battling poverty, unemployment and inequality.

A study released on 16 March 2017 reveals that 577 000 of the 1.1 million South African children, aged between 7 and 17 years, were involved in the illegal practice.

This is a marked decrease from the 779 000 in 2010. 

The 2017 study has also found that 81 000 children involved in child labour appeared to be doing work prohibited by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.  

The Free State was fingered as the province where the largest number of children below the legal age were identified as part of the workforce, on at least two farms in Wesselsbron. This was where the national event was held on Friday.

“Child labour is a complex matter that requires society to be circumspect when crafting interventions,” the Minister said, speaking at the event.

“The true character of any society is revealed in how it treats its children. When children are exploited for the economic gains of others, everybody loses. When one child is exploited, every one of us is diminished,” she said.

Government has subscribed to various international conventions as part of its commitment to protect the rights of children in South Africa.

However, some sectors are still prone to child labour.

The Minister cited domestic work as an example. “[It] is very difficult to detect because it happens within the confines of our homes and villages,” she said.

Oliphant said it was unsettling that the girl-child continued to be the most exploited.

“A lot of working children are found in agriculture where they often work on farms with the whole family. Work in the informal economy which includes activities such as shoe cleaning, begging or collecting rubbish. Some forms of child labour are easy to observe, while others are hidden from the public eye,” she said.

The department has made significant inroads but the Minister felt more needed to be done to curb the scourge.

“There is still a long way to go. We must together, reaffirm our commitment towards ensuring that every child is protected from exploitative labour practices,” she said, adding that no child was required, or permitted to perform work or provide services that are inappropriate, or placed at risk for their well-being.

In recognition of the work that still lie ahead, in May 2010, South Africa became a signatory to the International Labour Organisation Roadmap towards the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

The National Child Labour Programme of Action, became the country’s roadmap towards the prevention, reduction and eventual elimination of child labour.

The key elements of the programme include targeting the implementation of various programmes and policy interventions on poverty, unemployment, labour and social matters, Oliphant said. – SAnews.gov.za