Thee are more than 4,8 million South African child labourers between ages five and 17, the Labour Department said yesterday.
AgriSA president Lourie Bosman said yesterday it would be misleading to imply agriculture is the chief contributor to this statistic as it employs just under 800 000 workers.
“The statistics are wrong and would have to be verified. We do not promote child labour and our members are very supportive of our stand,” Bosman said.
The International Labour Organisation estimated more than 100 million boys and girls aged between five and 14 worked as labourers on farms and plantations worldwide – with more than 50 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
So this year’s focus of the World Day Against Child Labour tomorrow was the elimination of child labour in agriculture.
“Not all children working in agriculture can be considered child labourers under ILO conventions… if they perform tasks appropriate to a child’s age and are a normal part of growing up in a rural environment,” Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said at the International Labour Conference in Geneva.
“Children must get the chance to develop. Anything harmful to their development is seen as child labour. We are intensifying efforts to stamp out the scourge,” said Mdladlana.
Child labour in agriculture was one of the most dangerous forms of work for children, the department said.
“Children are often exposed to hazards and risks in the mixing, handling and applying of toxic pesticides, the use of dangerous cutting tools, working in extreme temperatures and operating powerful vehicles and machinery,” it said.
A partnership to bolster the global movement against child labour will be launched at tomorrow’s conference.
By Sibo Maputi & Sapa The Citizen