PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says child support grants, fee-free basic education and school feeding schemes have been a lifeline for many indigent families in South Africa.
The president said these government initiatives have helped keep millions of South African children in school and thus less vulnerable to exploitation.
Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address at the 5th International Labour Organisation Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
In his opening line, Ramaphosa said: “The rights of children are enshrined in our Bill of Rights. The Constitution places obligations on all, including the state, to advance the rights of children to a name and a nationality. It places an obligation on us to advance their rights to care, basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services. The Constitution enshrines the right of children to be protected from ill-treatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.”
He said for many, the words ‘child labour’ conjure up images of young people working in sweatshops and informal factories.
“We have all seen the terrible and heartrending images of children, some as young as six, labouring in mines across the African continent. But there is also a hidden face that many do not get to see. It is the children in domestic servitude to families and relatives, prevented from attending school because they have to do household work,” said Ramaphosa.
“It is the children of labour tenants on farms fulfilling exploitative agreements with farm owners, where the entire family must work on the land in exchange for the right to live on it. It is the many, many children, male and female, who are bought and sold in the international sex trade, the worst of all forms of exploitation.”
The president said the country must attain universal access to social protection, with a specific focus on children and the most vulnerable.
“By providing a basic floor of support for families with children, we can reduce the need for children to be put to work, whether in the home or elsewhere,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa added that child labour co-exist with migration flows and socio-economic instability in developing economies.
“We know that child labour co-exists with migration flows and socio-economic instability in developing economies. In a climate where millions are prepared to brave the harshness of deserts and rough seas in search of a better life, the risk of children being exposed to exploitative labour practices is high,” he said.
“The reality is that our prospects for eliminating child labour and achieving decent work are limited unless we change the structure of the global economy and the institutions that support it.”