Child Labour Programme of Action: Department of Labour Progress Report

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Employment and Labour

03 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr E Nyekembe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Child Labour Programme of Action: Department of Labour (DOL) progress report
The Department of Labour briefed the Committee on the Child Labour Programme of Action (CLPA), which had been finalised by Government in 2003, and which aimed to eradicate child labour in South Africa by highlighting this issue in public discourse and criticism. The second half of this programme was scheduled to run until 2012. It ran by working with various stakeholders, including businesses, organised labour, other government departments and non-governmental organisations, who would use efficient goal-orientated programmes to coordinate their efforts. Statistics from 1999 showed that 36% of children between 5 and 17 years of age were engaging in three to seven hours of work per week, most of it within the context of family-run businesses. Later surveys showed equal employment between boys and girls, with the most common forms of employment being in the agriculture, domestic work and small business sectors. The integrated programmes had, by reducing household poverty and increasing child support grants and attendance at school, ensured that less children were needing to work, and the Children’s Act and Child Justice Act had supported these efforts. Future legislation around prevention of human trafficking would also assist. There had been coordination between CLPA and a programme to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including steps to prosecute offenders, working to provide water so that children would not need to fetch it, and preventing children from scavenging dumping sites. Inter-governmental committees had been put in place, and there were steps to improve existing structures. Media campaigns sought to heighten public awareness, and it was hoped to hold another Child Labour Awareness Day later in the year. The work done by the South African Police Service was described. Statistics on reported cases for some provinces were presented. Some of the steps in support of the initiative to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016 were outlined.

Members asked about the ages of the children polled, from which areas they were drawn, whether it was possible to identify where the worst forms of child labour were taking place, and how this could be addressed by the Police Service. Several Members expressed their concern as to the difficulties in distinguishing between household chores, particularly if older family members were not strong enough to do them, and child labour, and one Member indicated that the realities on the ground around the fetching of water were somewhat different to what had been presented. Members asked whether there had been any steps towards setting up child-minding facilities at businesses, so that working people could be assured that their children were safe,
enquired about the roles of other stakeholders in the planning and work, wondered whether the lack of reported cases reflected the real position in Gauteng, asked if foreign children were involved, and urged that more effort be put into spreading awareness of child labour and human trafficking issues. Members urged that annual reports should be presented that would assist to gauge the effectiveness of the programme, that it should be benchmarked, and should include reports from other departments involved in child labour issues, and that in future reports on labour brokerage should be included.

Meeting report

Child Labour Programme of Action: Department of Labour (DOL) progress report
Mr Les Kettledas, Deputy Director General, Department of Labour, outlined the background to the Child Labour Programme of Action (CLPA), noting that the programme was finalised and accepted by Government in 2003, in compliance with the Constitution, as well as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997(BCEA) and various other international conventions, including the 1989 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CLPA was adopted after extensive inter-departmental discussion and it aimed to eradicate child labour in South Africa by highlighting this issue into public discourse and criticism. An updated version of the CLPA was presented to Cabinet in 2005, was adopted in 2007 and was finally approved in 2009. The second half of the project was scheduled to run until 2012 and would use the updated CLPA as a guide to its implementation.

Mr Kettledas stated that the purpose of the CLPA was to identify and prioritise the eradication of the worst forms of child labour, through the implementation of goal orientated programmes that used financial and human resources in the most efficient way possible. Some of the institutions with whom the CLPA would work included the National Programme of Action Steering Committee, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Task Team on Human Trafficking and the Child Labour Intersectoral Group. The Department of Labour (DOL or the Department) had consulted with stakeholders, including organised and informal sector business, organised labour and child-centered non government organisations (NGOs) when putting together the programme, as well as the Departments of Education, Health, Home Affairs and Trade & Industry.

A Survey of the Activities of Young People (SAYP) was undertaken in 1999. This showed that 36% of children aged between 5 and 17 years old were engaging in between 3 and 7 hours of work per week, including economic work. In most cases the work was undertaken within the context of a family-run business, with the majority of activities being in the areas of agriculture, retail, manufacturing, construction and domestic work. 59% of children who were polled worked because they thought it was their duty to support their family.

A later study, conducted in 2006, showed that the majority of employed children worked in the informal sector, and also showed that there was equal employment among boys and girls. Again, the most common forms of child employment were in the agricultural sector, as well domestic and small business work. The delegation expected that there would be a new set of statistics ready to be presented by the end of the financial year.

Mr Kettledas continued to outline some of the achievements of the CLPA. These included significant results in the reduction of household poverty, identified as the leading cause of child labour in the first place, as well as the increased rollout of child support grants to include children up to the age of 18. By 2007, 55% of public schools had been classified as ‘no-fee schools,’ further increasing the access to schooling available to vulnerable children. A strengthened legislative arsenal had also been created, particularly through the approval of the Children’s Act and the Child Justice Act. More supporting legislation was due to be approved in the future, including the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill.

Mr Kettledas also said that another achievement was the co-ordination of CLPA and the Programme Towards the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (TECL programme). The focus included development of procedures for successfully prosecuting individuals who exploited children, prioritising the provision of water so that water-fetching, most often done by children, could eventually be eradicated, as well as finding ways to remove children from situations where they were scavenging from dumping sites. Other more general steps were taken to help alleviate poverty.

Regulations on the prevention of the worst kinds of child labour had been in effect since February 2010. The training of inspectors on these regulations would take place before the end of the 2010/2011 financial year.

Mr Kettledas then outlined the improvements in co-ordination between the different government departments, and described the various committees put in place to achieve this. This included the formation of an implementation committee and inter-sectoral committees on child labour. Greater emphasis was being placed on working within existing structures so as to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the CLPA.

Public awareness of child labour was highlighted in the media, especially when the Child Labour Awareness day was held in June. Another Child Labour Day was proposed for later in the year. This public awareness campaign had been supplemented with the publication of flyers and pamphlets, as well as the training of 100 inspectors by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) on Human Trafficking. Other government departments had also taken steps to crack down on child labour, including the South African Police Service (SAPS). There had been implementation of local level monitoring services, work done to increase public awareness on the issue of child labour, updating of training programmes and amendments made to existing information to help better SAPS’s efficiency in combating the problem of child labour. SAPS had also been working with the Department of Social Development, as well as the Department of Home Affairs to help develop guidelines on the responses to incidents of human trafficking. Other government departments that still needed to be included in the programme were the Departments of Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development, Education and Water Affairs.

Mr Kettledas then presented some enforcement statistics, dealing with reported cases involving child labour. Although the statistics were incomplete, lacking details from the Western Cape and North-West Provinces, they showed that the majority of child labour cases were reported in the provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo.

Mr Kettledas concluded the presentation by outlining a
roadmap for achieving the international initiative to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016. This initiative was agreed to by South Africa in May 2010. The guiding principles included enforcing the rights of children to receive an education, taking responsibility for the well being of children at the highest levels of administration, the need to develop strong policies and programmes through consulting relevant stakeholders, taking action against the exploitation of children, both nationally and internationally, and spreading awareness of the plight of trafficked persons through all available media avenues.

Mr Ollis asked for the age of the children who were polled, as presented on page 15 of the presentation. He also asked that the DOL should undertake a closer look at the classification of different work types, with specific reference to the classification of domestic work.

Mr Virgil Seafield, Director, Department of Labour, answered that the children polled ranged from 5 to 18 years of age. He said that household chores were not considered to fall in the same category as using child labour for domestic work. A child who undertook domestic tasks could only be considered to be engaged in child labour if the work impacted negatively on the child’s physical and intellectual development.

Mr Ollis asked at what minimum legal age a child could work. He asked what the statistics were on the percentages of no-fee schools in the country. He also asked how the implementation committee fitted into the Department of Labour, as well as whether an interdepartmental committee would be created for Kwa-Zulu Natal, which showed the most cases of child labour.

Mr Kettledas answered that the minimum legal age at which a child could work in South Africa was 15 years old.

Mr Seafield commented that the number of no-fee schools had increased, but that there were no official statistics yet. He commented that interdepartmental cohesion was key to addressing the problem of child labour in the country. The dovetailing of the CLPA into existing structures within provincial and national governments would vastly speed up implementation and policy making.

Mr Ollis asked what steps were being taken to hold a Child Labour Awareness Day before the end of the year. He suggested that the Minister of Labour should give a press briefing to help raise awareness.
Mr Sam Morotoba, Acting Director General, Department of Labour, answered that a date had not yet been finalized for the Child Awareness Day, but it would be held towards the end of October, or the beginning of November.

Mr Ollis asked what was being done by SAPS towards identifying areas in the country that posed problems in regard to child labour.

Mr Seafield answered that it was very difficult to identify areas where human trafficking or child labour, was most prevalent, because children were often reluctant to come forward and report cases, and it was also difficult to identify when they had been exploited in the past. He further commented that the Children’s Act would go some way to addressing this difficulty.

Mr Ollis asked what consideration had been given to the idea of setting up child minding facilities at businesses, so that people could bring their children with them to work, and place them in a safe facility. He also requested that the CLPA should be benchmarked, so that a better understanding could be gained of what must be done in future. This would allow for targets to be set and adhered to.

Mr Thembinkhosi Mkhalipi, Chief Director, Department of Labour, answered that the creation of child care facilities was an issue for private businesses to discuss, and could not be addressed fully in the context of the Portfolio Committee.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) asked about the role of the intersectoral committee, and also asked for clarity around the inclusion of stakeholders other than the Department of Labour.

Mr Seafield answered that there was a need for the CLPA to work within existing structures. These included stakeholders such as the business community and other groups such as government departments and local government. A unified effort from all of the existing structures to combat child labour would have the greatest effect, and thus consultation and achieving cohesion between all relevant stakeholders, as well as government, was very important.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele asked whether the lack of any reported cases of child trafficking in Gauteng was indeed an accurate reflection of the reality.

Mr Seafield said that identification of child labour was very difficult and that the Department of Labour could only draw on the cases that were reported to the police to inform their statistics.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele asked what further work was being done to raise awareness in the rest of the country, pointing out that the previous Child Labour Day was only held in Gauteng.

Mr Morotoba answered that a preliminary date around the end of October or beginning of November would be the best time for the proposed Child Labour Day. He agreed that there should be more effort to spread awareness of child labour and human trafficking issues.

Ms M Rantsolase (ANC) asked for clarity on what had been achieved with the CLPA and what still needed to be done. She argued that it was necessary to have an annual report to keep track of the programme, and this should be addressed.

Mr Morotoba agreed that there should be a plan of action in place, as well as yearly updates, so as to be able to gauge the effectiveness of the programme and to show the progress made.

Ms Rantsolase called for caution when including the Department of Water Affairs in the programme. The reality on the ground, in regard to fetching of water and other more general household tasks, was very different to what had been presented. She also argued that it was difficult to draw the line between household chores and child labour where children had to take on certain tasks because elderly members of the family could not do them.

Mr Seafield answered that household chores should be considered differently from child labour, and that domestic work only constituted child labour if it interrupted a child’s physical or intellectual development.

Ms Rantsolase further asked that future presentations should contain specific reports from the different government departments, as it was problematic for the Committee to discuss all the issues surrounding child labour without having certain information to hand.

Ms Rantsolase asked for clarity on the sustainability of social grants.

Mr Kettledas answered that in order for a family to qualify for a child support grant, the child now had to be shown to attend school, and therefore those children for whom the grant was given were to an extent protected already from being exploited.

Ms Rantsolase asked why different fines were given in different court cases discussed in the presentation.

Mr Mkhalipi answered that the amounts of the fines were within the discretion of the presiding judge, and that they would also depend on the different circumstances of each case.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) asked that future presentations should set out more clearly what had been done since inception of the CLPA, as well as what more still had to be done.

Mr Madisha and Ms Rantsolase asked for information on the areas used for the studies. Mr Madisha also wanted to know to what extent foreign children were involved in child labour in the country.

Mr Seafield answered that the informants had come from rural and urban areas, and that the identification of foreign children was very difficult due to their reluctance to come forward.

Mr Madisha asked that in future, labour brokerage should be included in the assessment of child labour in South Africa.

The Chairperson asked for clarity surrounding the new target for the CLPA.

Mr Kettledas noted that the programme would run until 2012, when it would be updated again.

The Chairperson asked why the training of inspectors had come so late in the programme.
Mr Kettledas answered that the training that inspectors received was not a general form of training, but was run by the International Organisation of Migration and was specifically aimed at training in identifying human trafficking.

The meeting was adjourned.


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