Child Labour Convention: briefing

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Employment and Labour

22 February 2000
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

22 February 2000

Documents handed out:
ILO Convention 182 - Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour
Presentation by Department of Labour (see Appendix 1)
Explanatory Memorandum of the Convention (see Appendix 2)

Both the Labour Portfolio and Select Committees approved the Convention which was adopted by the ILO Conference at its 87th session on 17 June 1999 in Geneva.

The Department needs to assess the problem in South Africa, identify the reasons for child labour, look at the sectors and geographical areas involved, devise curative measures and implement these solutions. Statistics SA, in cooperation with the ILO, had started a child labour survey called "Activities of Child Labour" which would be completed in June 2000.

Ms Fatima Bhyat, Director of Minimum Standards, Department of Labour, Ms Bhyat commenced her presentation on Child Labour by referring to the SA Constitution where it states: "every child has the right to be protected from exploitative child labour practices; not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that - (i) are inappropriate for a person of that child's age; or (ii) place at risk the child's well-being, education, physical or mental health or social development."

In this context the Basic Conditions of Employment Act was promulgated which had given further effect to the Constitution, she said. The SA Schools Act also outlaws child labour.

Ms Bhyat said the extent of child labour was unknown in South Africa. However, it was estimated that about 200 000 children were employed in agriculture in SA.

She said that Statistics SA in cooperation with the ILO had started a child labour survey called "Activities of Child Labour". This survey would be completed in June 2000.

Ms Bhyat said the Department needed to do the following: assess the problem; identify the reasons for child labour; look at the sectors and geographical areas involved, devise curative measures and implement these solutions..

The requisite legislation was now in place ie the SA Constitution, Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Schools Act. She defined child labour as work by children under 18 which was hazardous, detrimental to schooling, including household work and carrying heavy loads. Girl children were most vulnerable and required particular attention.

She said child labour had to be viewed in its social context. The child labour survey would assist in producing a census by June 2000. This would then require coordination amongst key government departments such as Justice, Welfare, etc.

She then showed a 20 minute excerpt of a video called "I am a Child" commissioned by the ILO. The video goes across the world and focuses on what a child faces. The video stated that not even industrialized countries were free of child labour. Children were growing old before their childhood was gone, and the problem was affecting more developing countries. "Children should not be working - it should be the happiest time of their lives," said Hugh Cunningham, social historian (University of Kent). One of the disturbing clips is a working woman carrying a child on her back in a coffee plantation that is being sprayed with chemicals.

Mr R Ndou (ANC) wanted to pass the Convention with the addition of South Africa's particular experience attached. He noted there was child labour in First World countries. He said that everything bad was associated with Africa, such as corruption, yet these problems also occurred elsewhere such as the USA.

Another member requested that the list of types of work in the ILO document (mentioned in Article 4.3) could be obtained by the Department of Labour.

Prince N Zulu (IFP) said social factors had led children to prostitution, household work or being on the streets. He said to control the problem was going to be difficult - but if apartheid can be eradicated, this problem can also be dealt with.

Mr J Durand (NNP) said the issue was due to the economic problem in the Third World. "As far as the abuse of children is concerned, in most cases the parents are part of it," he said. He said children assisted parents to survive and a view had to be expressed concerning parents. Families struggled to make a living, he added.

Other questions and comments focused on resources and the required systems for eliminating the problem as well as the problem of enforcement with regard to proving a child's age. There was some criticism from the Committee about being informed timeously about developments (as the Convention was adopted last June).

Ms Bhyat responded as follows:
- the survey results will lead to policy implementation
- the community has to be involved
- the Dept of Labour has trained NGOs to identify child labour especially in terms of prostitution and drug trafficking
- in terms of ratification there are no financial implications
- there are financial implications in terms of implementation
- parental involvement will be developed: government departments are working together on a constructive community-based impetus
- we take cognizance to inform the Portfolio Committee timeously

The Portfolio Committee, chaired by Mr M Manie, approved the ILO Convention 182 recommendation unanimously. The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises, chaired by Mr S Fenyane, then met very briefly and approved the recommendation unanimously.

Appendix 1
CONVENTION 182: Elimination of worst forms of child labour

· Parliament is asked to ratify convention
· South Africa was very active in the drafting of the Convention
· We want to be amongst the first countries to ratify it.

What does the Convention say?
· All members who ratify the Convention shall take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency.
· It goes on to define what is worst forms of child labour and what measures should be taken.

· Slavery
· The sale and trafficking of children
· Debt bondage and serfdom
· Forced or compulsory or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict
· Prostitution
· Pornographic activities
· Illicit activities, such as production and trafficking of drugs
· Work harmful to the health safety and morals of children.

· Identification as to whether the worst forms of child labour exist
· Set up mechanisms to monitor implementation of convention
· Design and implement programmes of action to eliminate as a priority the worst forms of child labour
· Ensure effective enforcement including through penal sanctions
· Prevent engagement of children in worst forms of child labour
· Help remove and rehabilitate children in the worst forms of child labour
· Ensure access to free basic education
· Identify children at special risk especially the girl child.

Recommendations include on:
· What programme of action should aim to do and include
· What types of work could be hazardous to children
· How to implement including in respect of data collection and monitoring.

Can South Africa ratify the Convention
· We comply with the Convention....

Identification of worst forms of child labour
· Statistics SA with technical cooperation from the ILO are completing a comprehensive survey on the nature and extent of child labour.
· This survey will enable us to identify the most hazardous forms and act on them.

Mechanisms to monitor implementation
· Department of Labour has played a key role in establishing CLIG: Child Labour Intersectoral Group of the National Programme of Action for the Child
· Coalition of trade unions, business, NGO's and other government departments which monitors implementation and oversees implementation of a Programme of Action.

Programme of Action
· There is a programme of action in place
· Will be revised once the survey results are known.
· Revision will include a public consultation process with all relevant stakeholders.

Effective enforcement
· Basic conditions of Employment Act prohibits child labour under 15 and regulates between 15 and 18.
· Employers who engage in child labour subject to a maximum sentence of three years in jail. Enforcement is done jointly with Department of Welfare to take into account interests of child.

Remove and rehabilitate children
· Child care Act makes provision
· Act is being revised to inter alia improve this area.

Free basic education
· This is provided for in the South African Schools Act
· The challenge is to make it effective education so that children remain at school.

Appendix 2:

At the International Labour Conference in June 1999, delegates representing governments, employers and workers of the 174 Member States of the ILO unanimously adopted a new Convention and Recommendation concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. South Africa supported the adoption of a new Convention and is fully committed to ratifying this instrument and to implement immediate action to eliminate widespread abuses suffered by the children in the world of work.

The New Convention applies to all persons under the age of 18 and calls on member states to take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

Mr. J Somavia, ILO Director General, requested ratifying states to applying the convention as widely as possible to all children under 18 and to ensure that measures are taken to prohibit and immediately eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

South Africa has already ratified 5 of the Core ILO Conventions. The instruments of ratification for the remaining two Core Conventions i.e. C. 138 concerning Minimum Age and C. 100 concerning Equal Remuneration will be deposited with the ILO through the South African Mission in Geneva in February 2000. The importance attached to this Convention, which is now deemed to be one of the fundamental Conventions, is illustrated by a letter written to President Mbeki by the ILO Director General calling for South Africa to attach the highest priority to the ratification of this Convention.

Elimination of exploitation of child labour in South Africa
The South African Government attaches great importance to the international campaign on the elimination of all forms of child labour. In terms of the South African Constitution "every child has the right to be protected from exploitative labour practices and not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that are inappropriate to a person of that child's age or place at risk the child's well being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development."

To give effect to the above-mentioned statement Chapter 6 "Prohibition of employment of children", of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997, provides that no person may employ a child who is under the age of 15 years or who is under the minimum school leaving age in terms of any law, if this is 15 years or older.

Ratifications by other member states
The Seychelles and Malawi were the first two countries to ratify Convention I82. Because ILO Conventions enter into force twelve months after the registration of a
second ratification, Malawi's ratification on 19 November 1999 means that the Convention will enter into force 19 November 2000. US President Clinton's signing the instrument of ratification on 2 December 1999 was an important boost to the campaign for universal adoption of this landmark agreement.

The State Law advisers studied the Convention and advised that it does not appear to be in conflict with South Africa's obligations in terms of international law. The convention does not contain any self-executing provision that that will become law in the Republic in terms of Section 231(4) of the Constitution upon approval of agreement for the State.

There are no financial implications as all that is required is ratification.


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