12 June 2008
The government has released the draft Child Labour Programme of Action as part of its plans to reduce the number of South African children – currently estimated at around one million – who are forced into labour.
The programme of action for 2008-12, released in Pretoria this week, aims to reduce the number of children whose schooling is adversely affected by the work they are required to do by up to 80%.
This figure includes the a number of children, especially in rural areas, who live more than five minutes’ walk away from their source of drinking water, which they are usually responsible for fetching.
“There is acceptable work for children, and then there is child labour,” said Department of Labour spokesperson Zolisa Sigabi.
Child labour refers to work that is exploitative, hazardous or inappropriate to the age of the child and which is detrimental to their safety, poses a risk to their health, social, physical, spiritual or mental development and affects their schooling.
In March 2006, the Labour Force Survey established that about 847 000 children between the ages of 10 and 17 years were involved in child labour.
This included children under the age of 10 whose work activities qualify as child labour, children living and working on the streets, children in hidden and highly exploitative forms of child labour, such as commercial sexual exploitation or use in the commission of crime, children who have migrated without documents and are also performing hidden work.
A number of events will be held this week to highlight the plight of children in South Africa.
Firstly, the labour department will host an implementations committee meeting that will evaluate progress towards achieving the targets that the government has set.
Later in the week, the Parliament will also host a huge contingent of children through the office on the rights of the child located in the Presidency that emphasises the centrality of the plight of children in the programmes of government.