The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled at the shocking report by Statistics SA that 577 000 children in South Africa, some as young as seven, are being used for child labour.
The report, released on 28 March 2018, on the State of Children aged between seven and 17 years old, said children aren’t only used for labour but are also deprived of basic rights such as education and proper health; 2.2 million of South African children are also orphaned.
This provides further evidence that South African society is losing the most basic moral and humanitarian values. What could be worse than profiteering from the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society and condemning them to survive into adulthood without proper healthcare and education, which will condemn most of them to years of unemployment and ill-heath.
Most infringements of children’s rights were found in rural areas, and Stats SA says that “declines were recorded for all population groups, except among the white population group, where a slight increase of 0.3% was experienced.
“The extent to which children were engaged in child labour increases with age”, says the report, with older children aged 16 and 17 years most vulnerable,. It was also found that 44 000 girls aged 12 to 17 gave birth during the time the research was done, an indication that there is widespread sexual as well as labour abuse.
The big question this report raises is why the national and provincial departments of labour, social development, basic education and others have allowed such high levels of illegal abuse of children to continue and so few of the perpetrators to be prosecuted. It seems as though they are turning a blind eye to this continuing exploitation.
A crucial question for the unions is to ask how many unemployed adult workers could and should be employed to do the work now being done illegally by these 577 000 children.
SAFTU has also questioned how the national minimum wage, at the poverty level of R20 an hour, can possibly be enforced by a understaffed and under-resourced Department of Labour. If it cannot stop such a high level of illegal child labour, how can they possibly be able to force employers to pay the minimum wage to their adult employees?
The federation demands a complete ban of child labour, free and compulsory education and healthcare for all South African children and full-time jobs for adult workers to replace the children. We urge all our members and members of the public to report any cases in their locality where this exploitation taking place.