Child labour laws to be tightened
MORE than 268 000 children have been recruited and employed to work in hard and often harmful working conditions in South Africa's commercial agriculture industry, says a report released by the Labour Department.
The report was unveiled by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant in Tzaneen at an event to commemorate the national day against child labour.
In May 2010 South Africa became a signatory to the International Labour Organisation's Roadmap to the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016.
According to the latest department survey conducted in 2010, about 268 000 under age children were hired to participate in economic activities.
These large numbers of children are indicative of the fact that many are forced to miss their education, a crucial part of human and economic development. They are also forever subjected to crippling and underpaying jobs.
"The data from this survey will be used to report against the indicators established for the monitoring of the Child Labour Program of Action, therefore the Department is proud to release the analysis of this study," said Oliphant
"Since the first adoption of the Child Labour Programme of Action (CLPA) in 2003 significant progress has been made."
In some areas, mainly farms along the border, were found to be hiring undocumented foreigners as cheap labour.
Observers said underage foreign workers even worked for a few cents that South Africans would not accept.
Oliphant said her department would engage social partners to amend legislation that would enforce strict regulations and impose harsh sanctions against offenders.
According to the figures, victims are mainly children in rural villages, who are between 11 and 16 years old and who are supposed to be at school.
It is believed that Tzaneen commercial farmers employ rural villagers, while Musina employs foreigners, mostly from Zimbabwe.
The director of the International Labour Organisation in West and Southern Africa, Vic van Vuuren, said South Africa seemed to be on the right track to eradicate child labour.
He said: "The problem in SA is the application of the law but the country is getting there, which has not happened in some of its neighbouring countries."
Van Vuuren said the long-term ramifications of denying "these children" a proper education severely restricts the childrens' chances of building a better life.
The ILO also said South Africa would be used as launching pad to help its neighbours that are still lagging behind.