‘Chores could be classed as child labour’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HEIDI GIOKOS

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.

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