Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 13:28 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - South Africa

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - South Africa, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7490b2b.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     3/30/2000
Ratified Convention 182     6/07/2000
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan (Human Trafficking)

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under age 15 in South Africa are unavailable.4307 Working children are most often found on farms and in the informal economy.4308 More children in rural areas than urban areas are engaged in some type of work. Children work in commercial agriculture and on subsistence farms planting and harvesting vegetables, picking and packing fruit, and cutting flowers.4309 Children perform domestic tasks in their own households and work as paid domestic servants in the homes of third parties. Many work as unpaid domestic servants, especially on rural farms.4310 In urban areas, children work as street hawkers, especially around taxi stands and near public transportation,4311 and as car guards.4312 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 2000, 10.7 percent of the population in South Africa were living on less than USD 1 a day.4313

There are reports that child prostitution is increasing.4314 South Africa is a country of origin, transit, and destination for children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.4315 Girls are reportedly trafficked internally and from other countries, including Swaziland, Mozambique, China, and Thailand, for the purpose of sexual exploitation.4316 There are also reports that boys are trafficked to South Africa for forced agricultural work from neighboring countries,4317 including Lesotho.4318 Trafficking of children from rural areas to urban areas for the purpose of domestic service is also a problem.4319

The Constitution guarantees every child the right to basic education.4320 The South African Schools Act of 1996 makes school compulsory for children ages 7 to 15 years and prohibits public schools from refusing admission to any child on the grounds of learning ability or race.4321 Public schools may not refuse admission to students who are unable to pay school fees.4322 Primary education is not free, but the poorest households may claim an exemption from school fees in their district.4323

Despite constitutional guarantees, significant barriers to education exist. Costs such as school fees, transportation, and school uniforms continue to prevent some children from attending school.4324 HIV/AIDS orphans and children heading households face obstacles such as stigmatization, absence of adult support, and the need to work to provide meals for themselves and their siblings.4325 Many schools also continue to face significant infrastructure and other problems that have a negative impact on the quality of education.4326

In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 106 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 89 percent.4327 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for South Africa. As of 2002, 84 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.4328

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act establishes the minimum age for employment at 15 years.4329 The Employment Act allows for the Minister of Labor to set additional prohibitions or conditions on the employment of children age 15 years and over, who are no longer subject to compulsory schooling under any law.4330 The maximum penalty for illegally employing a child, according to the Employment Act, is 3 years of imprisonment.4331 The Constitution provides for the right of every child, defined as a person less than 18 years of age, to be protected from labor practices which are exploitative. It also prohibits children from performing work or providing services that are age-inappropriate or that jeopardize their well being or development.4332 In July 2004, the South African Department of Labor (SADOL) passed regulations concerning the employment of children in the film, entertainment, sports, and advertising industries. Employers wishing to hire children must first apply for a license, set permissible hours, and provide schooling, transportation, and chaperone services.4333

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in South Africa. The Employment Act and the Constitution prohibit all forms of forced labor.4334 The Defense Act of 2002 sets 18 years as the minimum age for voluntary, military service, military training, and conscription, even in times of national emergency.4335 The Sexual Offences Act establishes sexual exploitation of children as a criminal offense. Children can be arrested for prostitution under the Sexual Offences Act, despite being victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Such cases, however, are generally referred by the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions to children's courts, which make determinations regarding children's need for care.4336 The Child Care Act, as amended, sets a penalty of up to 10 years of imprisonment and/or a fine for any person who participates in or is involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.4337 The Children's Bill, approved by the National Assembly in 2005, specifically prohibits the trafficking of children.4338 Since 1999, the Government of South Africa has submitted to the ILO a list or an equivalent document identifying the types of work that it has determined are harmful to the health, safety or morals of children under Convention 182 or Convention 138.4339

The SADOL is tasked with enforcement of child labor laws. There are approximately 1,000 labor inspectors nationwide, but none focus exclusively on monitoring child labor.4340 According to the U.S. Department of State, SADOL effectively enforces child labor laws in the formal non-agricultural sector but less so in other sectors.4341 The Child Protection Unit (CPU) and the Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offenses Unit (FCS) within the South African Police Service also are involved in child protection issues. The CPU offers services to child victims in a sensitive way, and investigates and raises awareness of crimes against children. There are 28 CPUs and 14 FCSs located across the country.4342

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The government is implementing the National Program of Action for Children (NPA). The Office on the Status of Children coordinates the plan and also coordinates all policies concerning child welfare and child related programs.4343 The South African Social Security Agency provides social grants to children aged 13 years and under to assist them with meeting basic necessities and staying out of the workforce.4344

The SADOL chairs the Child Labor Intersectoral Group (CLIG), a national stakeholder group that coordinates child labor activities conducted by the government, unions, and NGOs, and raises awareness about child labor and the enforcement of child labor laws.4345 The SADOL also is slated to coordinate implementation of the Child Labor Action Plan (CLAP) which aims to eliminate exploitative child labor.4346 The CLAP is currently in draft form.4347

In collaboration with the government, ILO/IPEC is implementing a USD 5 million USDOL-funded regional child labor project in Southern Africa, which includes South Africa. Efforts in South Africa are focused on supporting the Government of South Africa's Child Labor Action Plan through awareness-raising, enhancing capacity for policy implementation and monitoring, and direct action programs.4348 The American Institutes for Research is also implementing a USD 9 million regional Child Labor Education Initiative project funded by USDOL in Southern Africa, and is working in collaboration with the Government of South Africa to improve quality and access to basic and vocational education for South African children who are working in, or are at risk of working in, the worst forms of child labor.4349

In the past year, the government continued to provide training to the police and judiciary on antitrafficking in persons activities.4350 Government-owned radio and TV stations supported activities by the International Organization for Migration to raise public awareness of the trafficking issue.4351

UNICEF also supports activities aimed at improving access to primary education, increasing support for early childhood development, and protecting children's rights.4352 The government continues to allocate more resources to the most deprived schools in its provinces and to disadvantaged black African children.4353 The Department of Education is implementing an action plan to improve access to free and quality basic education for the most disadvantaged learners.4354 The government also provides up to 4.6 million students with school meals.4355


4307 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

4308 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, June 21, 2000, para 2.

4309 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004, para 2.

4310 Debbie Budlender and Dawie Bosch, Child Domestic Workers: A National Report; No 39, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, May, 2002, ix, x; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/southafrica/others/domestic.pdf. See also U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, June 21, 2000, para 4.

4311 Ibid.

4312 ILO-IPEC, HIV/AIDS and Child Labour in South Africa: A rapid assessment, Paper No. 4, March 2003, 27.

4313 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2005.

4314 ECPAT International, South Africa CSEC Overview, [database online] 2005 [cited July 1, 2005]; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/index.asp. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: South Africa, Washington, D.C., February 28, 2005, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41627.htm. Children are reportedly forced into prostitution by their parents, in order to help support their families financially. See U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004.

4315 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: South Africa, Washington, D.C., June, 2005, 198; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/. See also ECPAT International, South Africa CSEC Overview.

4316 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: South Africa, 198. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: South Africa, Section 5. See also International Organziation for Migration, The Trafficking of Women and Children in the Southern African Region, Pretoria, March 24, 2003, 11; available from http://www.iom.int/documents/publication/en/southernafrica%5Ftrafficking.pdf.

4317 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: South Africa, 198.

4318 International Organization for Migration, The Trafficking of Women and Children in the Southern African Region, Pretoria, March 24, 2003, 12; available from http://www.iom.int/documents/publication/en/southernafrica%5Ftrafficking.pdf.

4319 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004, para 5.

4320 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, (December 10, 1996), Chapter 2, Section 29(1)(a); available from http://www.concourt.gov.za/constitution/const02.html#28.

4321 South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996, (November 15, 1996), Chapter 2, Sections 3(1), 5, 6.

4322 Ibid., Chapter 2, Section 5(3)(a).

4323 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004, para 9.

4324 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, October 5, 2001, para 12.

4325 Bill Rau, Combating Child Labour and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, Paper No. 1, ILO-IPEC, July 2002, 24,26.

4326 Government of South Africa-Department of Education, Education for All: The South African Assessment Report, Pretoria, March 2000, 38-39. However, the 2003 Plan of Action focuses on improving the quality of schools for the poorest 40 percent of students and seeks to remove all barriers to school access in a three year span. See Government of South Africa – Department of Education, Plan of Action: Improving access to free and quality basic education for all, June 14, 2003, 2.

4327 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Rations, Primary; accessed October 2005). For a detailed explanation of gross primary enrollment rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate in "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

4328 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

4329 Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997, (December 5, 1997), 43(1)(a)(b), 43(3), 93; available from http://www.workinfo.com/free/Sub_for_legres/data/bcea1998.htm.

4330 Ibid., Sections 44(1), 44(2).

4331 Ibid., Sections 43(1)(a)(b), 43(3), 44(2), 93.

4332 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2, Sections 28(3), 28(1)(e) and (f).

4333 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004, para 4.

4334 Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 43(1)(a)(b), 43(3), 93.

4335 Ibid., Chapter 2, Section 28(1)(i), 28(3).

4336 Government of South Africa, The National Child Labour Action Programme for South Africa, Draft 4.10, Pretoria, October 2003, 21; available from http://www.labour.gov.za/useful_docs/doc_display.jsp?id=9503. See also Forbidden or forgiven? The legal status of sex work in South Africa, Community Law Centre, October 1999 [cited July 5, 2005]; available from http://www.communitylawcentre.org.za/gender/gendernews1999/1999_2_sex.php#sex.

4337 The Act also provides the same penalties for anyone who owns, leases, manages, or occupies property where CSEC occurs and knowingly fails to report it to the police. Child Care Amendment Act, (1999), Section 50A.

4338 U.S. Department of State, reporting, November 15, 2005, para 2.

4339 ILO-IPEC official, email communication to USDOL official, November 14, 2005.

4340 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 3, 2004.

4341 Ibid., para 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: South Africa, Section 6d. See also U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, October 5, 2001, para 8.

4342 Child Protection Unit, South African Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, December 2, 2002 [cited July 5, 2005]; available from http://www.saspcan.org.za/childprot.htm. See also Establishment of the SA Police Child Protection Unit, Crime Busters of South Africa, March 2000 [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://www.100megspop2.com/crimebusters/ChildAbuse.html.

4343 Office of the President, Joint Committee on Children, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, June 13, 2003; available from http://www.pmg.org.za/docs/2003/viewminute.php?id=2914. See also Statement: United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, May 8, 2002; available from http://www.gcis.gov.za/media/minister/020508.htm. See also National Programme of Action: 2000 and Beyond, Office of the Rights of the Child, [website] 2004 [cited December 13, 2005]; available from http://www.children.gov.za/About.html.

4344 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 1, 2005, paras 1 and 2c. See also, Government of South Africa, National Child Labour Action Programme, 19.

4345 There are 10 CLIG offices located in the provinces. See Fatima Bhyat, Meeting Notes, prepared by USDOL official, July 26, 2000. See also Dawie Bosch & Associates, Towards a National Child Labour Action Programme for South Africa, Pretoria, October 2002, 8; available from http://www.labour.gov.za/useful_docs/doc_display.jsp?id=9504.

4346 Government of South Africa, National Child Labour Action Programme, 2,3,10.

4347 U.S. Consulate – Johannesburg, reporting, September 1, 2005, para 2d.

4348 ILO-IPEC, Supporting the Time-Bound Programme to eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in South Africa's Child labor Action Programme and laying the basis for concerted action against Worst Forms of Child Labor in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland, September 30, 2003, 30.

4349 Notice of Award: Cooperative Agreement, U.S. Department of Labor / American Institutes for Research, Washington D.C., August 16, 2004, 1,2.

4350 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: South Africa, Section 5.

4351 U.S. Department of State, reporting, November 15, 2005, para 10.

4352 UNICEF, At a glance: South Africa, UNICEF, 2005 [cited June 16, 2005]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/southafrica.html.

4353 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: South Africa, Section 5. See also Government of South Africa – Department of Education, Plan of Action: Improving access to free and quality basic education for all, Foreword. See also Government of South Africa- Department of Education, Education for All: South Africa, 26, 27, 32.

4354 Government of South Africa-Department of Education, Plan of Action: Improving access to free and quality basic education for all, Foreword.

4355 UN Integrated Regional Information Network, "South Africa: 4.6 million children rely on school meals," IRINnews.org, [online], July 2, 2004 [cited July 3, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=41983&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=SOUTH_AFRICA.

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