Child Labour Survey Results Released in South Africa

21/07/2012 – South Africa has released the results of a survey of child labour on the National Day against Child Labour. More than 268,000 children have been hired to work in commercial agriculture, reports The Sowetan.

The South African government has released worrying new statistics on child labour in the country.

The Survey on the Activities of Young People states that more than 120,000 children participated in economic activities in 2010. Another 90,000 children were injured on the job during the past 12 months. High levels of school absenteeism were also revealed because child had to help out with chores around the house of look after family members.

Indeed, one of the most atrocious things about child labour is that it takes children out of the classrooms. Such an act undermines their future opportunities, as children miss out on literacy, numeracy and other skills.

“Overall 4,392,000 children over 40% of those attending school were reported to have been absent on five or more days since the beginning of the school year,” said Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, on the National Day against Child Labour.

Most of the victims are rural dwelling children aged 11 to 16—children who should be in school obtaining their education.

The South African Constitution of 1996 contains a Bill of Rights that elaborates on the entitlements and protection afforded to the nation’s children. The document is one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

Article 28 of the Bill of Rights pertains to children, who are “to be protected from exploitative labour practices.” This means that they have the right to be free from work inappropriate to their age or that endangers their “well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development.”

Article 29 enshrines all individuals' right to a basic education.

Worldwide, 215 million boys and girls are subjected to child labour, despite the practice being prohibited by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 182.

South Africa, a state party to both conventions, is set to lead efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the region by getting neighbouring countries involved.

"The problem in SA [South Africa] is the application of the law but the country is getting there, which has not happened in some of its neighbouring countries,” said ILO representative Vic van Vuuren in The Sowetan.

The Sowetan further reports that the labour department will engage social sector partners to help improve and enforce laws.

"Policies and legislation need to address this issue with the seriousness it deserves," said the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in a government news release.

South Africa also endorsed the ILO's Roadmap to the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016. The worst forms of child labour include such situations as slavery, child trafficking, child soldiering, drug trafficking, and work that can physically, emotionally, morally or spiritually harm children.