Tens of thousands of children are still put to work in SA, despite it being illegal and measures such as the child support grant and free schooling that are designed to curb child labour.
Releasing the results of the Survey on the Activities of Young People on Thursday, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said that in Tzaneen, Limpopo, at least 121 000 children were engaged in economic activities in 2010.
The survey, conducted in that year by StatsSA, reveals shocking statistics reflecting high levels of absenteeism from school in order to perform work.
It found 90 000 children reported having been injured in the previous year during economic activity.
Overall, 4.4 million children – over 40 percent of those attending school – were reported to have been absent on five or more days since the beginning of the school year,” said Oliphant.
Of those, 59 000 gave work as the main reason for their most recent absence, “if work is broadly defined to include helping with household tasks, and looking after their own children and other household members”.
The study said 47 percent of children engaged in work in the formal economy had missed five school days or more. The figure was 50 percent for those in the informal economy.
Ministerial spokesman Musa Zondi said many of the illegal child labourers in Limpopo and Mpumalanga were illegal immigrants working on farms for low wages.
He called on Home Affairs to help the Labour Department tackle this problem, saying child labour inspectors were unable to do their jobs properly in these cases.
Oliphant said SA would abide by an International Labour Organisation (ILO) request for the country to lead the bid to encourage neighbouring countries to comply with attempts to eradicate the worst forms of child labour.
The ILO’s Vic van Vuuren said 215 million children worldwide were subjected to child labour.