Study shows that incidence of child labour has declined in SA

A recent report by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) details how much South African children work. In 2015 there were 11.2 million children aged 7 to 17. Fewer than 2 percent (179 000 children) did not attend school. In addition to attending school most children were called upon to perform chores at home and school and even work for money.

The vast majority of children (80 percent) are required to perform chores at home. One-third of all children also reported having to perform chores at school. In both circumstances the chores generally entailed sweeping and cleaning. One-in-five (21%) of children also worked (were economically active). Most of the children who worked were involved in the producing goods or services for household consumption. This included tending herds, collecting water etc.

Less than four percent of the children who worked were involved in providing goods and services for the market (as opposed to consumption by the household). Half of the children involved in market activities were motivated by their desire for 'pocket money'.
However 5.2 percent of children (577 000) children were "child labourers". Child labour is defined as ..." Work by children under 18 which is exploitative, hazardous or otherwise inappropriate for their age, detrimental to their schooling, or social, physical, mental, spiritual or moral development." Moderate household chores and work for pocket money is thus not an indication of "child labour". But if the chores were particularly arduous or took so long enough to undermine the childs development it is considered "child labour".  

The number of child labourers had decreased markedly since 2010 when 779 000 were classified as child labourers. Almost of all of the improvement was due to (an unexplained) reduction of child labour in the Eastern Cape. Between 2010 and 2015 the proportion of children involved in child labour dropped from 15 percent to five percent in that province. Currently child labour is most pervasive in KwaZulu-Natal where one-in-ten children are classified as child labourers.


One of the clearest indicators of children being vulnerable to economic exploitation is the absence of a parent from the household. 13 percent of children in households where both parents were present were economically active (but not necessarily child labourers). In household where only one parent is present this figure rises to 22%. In households where neither parent is present the incidence of economic activity by children rises to over 30%.

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