‘Chores could be classed as child labour’
THE Labour Department and Cosatu want more done to stop child labour, but they were thin on ideas when addressing an event to mark the National Day Against Child Labour yesterday.
While slavery and forced child labour is not as prevalent in South Africa as in other sub-Saharan countries, children often work on farms and as domestic workers, despite being legally barred from work before 15. According to Unicef, many children are also forced to beg or be street vendors.
“While we have made remarkable progress on this front, there is still a lot more to do,” Compensation Fund com- missioner Vuyo Mafata told the gathering in Cullinan in Gauteng.
Poverty was a factor, he said, as well as economic exploitation, social values and cultural circumstances.
Mafata, speaking in the absence of deputy Labour Minister Phathekile Holomisa, said one in seven children around the world were being being forced to work and 218 million children were working instead of going to school.
One of the main reasons South Africa was grappling with the problem was because of a lack of education.
“It is fact and not fiction that countries that keep their children at school longer, tend to have low levels of unemploy- ment. By depriving children of their right to education and all the potential that it holds, we are inadvertently denying ourselves a brighter and a more just world.”
In 2003 the department rolled out the Child Labour Programme of Action, the roadmap towards the prevention, reduction and eventual elimination of child labour.
Cosatu deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe called on the government to work with the private sector to end child labour.
“It is not going to help us to come here and say speeches without action. These issues are happening right in front of us.”
He also called for action against those who continued to use child labour in South Africa and encouraged the youth to refuse to be “used and abused”.
Mafata warned that house chores could be interpreted as child labour.
“Doing house chores or tending to livestock, while necessary, could lend itself to child labour if done excessively and unmonitored.”
The theme for the event was “Let me be the child”, with a focus on a child’s right to education, play and activities to promote physical and mental wellbeing.
More than 100 children from schools around Tshwane and Cullinan attended the gathering.