Pretoria — The Deputy Minister of Labour, Nkosi Patekile, says it is important to acknowledge the underlying causes of child labour rather than only dealing with the symptoms.
Addressing the National Day Against Child Labour in Upington in the Northern Cape on Friday, the Deputy Minister said there were still pockets of child labour practices in South Africa's labour market and in the household setting.
"The prevalence of such practices varies from one sector to another, but is more profound in the vulnerable sectors and sections of our society. We must also be careful not to define child labour so broad that it begins to diminish what has been developed over decades as important ingredients of building nations."
He said one should consider that the girl child collecting wood and fetching water and the boy child herding cattle were never seen as child labour, but an accepted way of life.
"It was so much part of life that the girl and the boy child, if prevented from doing these chores, will be very upset. On the other hand when girls come of age, fetching water was but one of the chores that they guarded jealously because that's where they will meet their peers and learn about many life skills and how to survive as a woman," said the Deputy Minister.
He believed the fine balance between promoting those cultural and traditional chores that have prospects of harnessing personal development for children and preventing any element of abuse could be found.
The Survey of Activities of Young People (SAYP) in 2006, reported that 59% of young people said they were working because they had a duty to help their family, and a further 15% said they worked to assist the family with money.
"This kind of help, where a child is forced by circumstances to work is wrong and clearly constitutes child labour."
He said in the farming communities, it was almost obligatory for children to work in the farms as that is often the preconditions and/or a license for their families to live in the farm.
In the domestic sector, in the case of those domestic workers who are permitted to live with their children in the employer's property, children are sometimes asked to do chores like washing dishes, washing the mother's boss's car and even being forced to babysit mom's boss's children.
There are also cases where a child is forced by circumstances, such as the death of both parents and the child assumes adult responsibilities at an early age.
"Whilst government has done a lot to mitigate the impact of these harsh realities, there is still a long way to go... and... although household choresare usually considered non-threatening by most parents and society, it may be a strong deterrent to educational activities and the optimal development of a child," said the Deputy Minister.
He said much of these forms of work displaced badly needed education and the meagre salary they earn could not change their lives the way education can.
Deputy Minister Patekile said as the country commemorates Child Labour Day, one must also celebrate the strides made.
In May 2010 South Africa became signatory to the ILO Roadmap towards the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016.
The Child Labour Programme of Action (CLPA), first adopted in 2003, is South Africa's roadmap towards the prevention, reduction and eventual elimination of child labour.
The programme sets out specific actions to be taken and assigned responsibility for these actions, including targeting the implementation of government and other stakeholders' programmes and policies on poverty, employment, labour and social matters more effectively in areas where the work children do has serious negative effects on them; promoting new legislative measures against Worst Forms of Child Labour; strengthening of national capacity to enforce legislative measures and increasing public awareness and social mobilization against Worst Forms of Child Labour.
The second phase of this work - adopted by Cabinet on 4 February 2009 and covered the financial years 2008/09 to 2012/13 - served to focus and guide the efforts of a number of government departments and civil society groups, including business organisations, labour federations and organisations. - SAnews.gov.za