SA is no country for young kids
The next time your children complain about washing the dishes, making you a cup of tea or the quality of the household Wi-Fi, go to the Stats SA website and show them the Survey of Activities of Young People.
In it, they will find out how worse off other kids between the ages of seven and 17 are.
Rural children have it particularly hard: 8.9% of them are child labourers, defined by UN conventions as “any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardise the health, safety or morals of young” people below the age of 18. In KwaZulu-Natal, one in 10 children is a child labourer, as opposed to 2% of children in urban areas. Many have been injured while working and others say they find the dust and the heat they are forced to toil in particularly hard.
Then there are the 13.7% of children aged between seven and 10 who are expected to do their schoolwork, chores around the house, as well as participate in economic activity such as working at the family’s business. That percentage increases as children get older, up to 27.7% for teens between the ages of 15 and 17. For children whose parents do not live with them, that rate rises to 30.1%.
Children work, they say, to earn some pocket money and to contribute to the family income.
On the whole, the situation of South Africa’s children has improved: there were 577 000 child labourers in 2015, 202 000 fewer than in 2010. But that’s still not great. Statistician-General Pali Lehohla told City Press that many children in rural areas were forced to skip school because they needed to fend for themselves.
So, the next time your precious darlings complain about helping out in the garden, tell them to be grateful they are not in a village ploughing and planting an entire field. And you don’t even have to begin your lecture with the phrase: “In my day...”