Of the 11.2 million South African children aged between seven and 17‚ a shocking 577 000 were involved in child labour activities in 2015‚ Statistics South Africa has revealed.
This is down from 779 000 children involved in these activities in 2010‚ according to the Survey of Activities of Young People Survey issued by StatsSA on Thursday.
The report defined child labour as an involvement in a number of indicators‚ which include doing work prohibited by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act‚ such as working for a wage‚ salary or any payment in kind.
The indicators also include children working for more hours per week doing home work such as fetching water and firewood‚ and school-related work unrelated to study.
Another indicator was where a child was doing work that interfered with schooling and where a child was absent from school because of work related activities and where a child was doing hazardous work such as working with explosives and carrying heavy loads.
The largest number of children (349 000) in child labour were those who worked long hours on all types of work combined.
The second largest number (203 000) were those doing hazardous work while 81 000 appeared to be doing work prohibited by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
Only 4000 children appeared to be absent from school because of work-related activities and 1000 was doing “market-related” activities that interfered with their schooling.
The survey found that four in five children aged between seven and 17 in South Africa were black but that only 29% of black African children lived with both parents in the household‚ compared to the 75.6% among whites and 74.8% among Indian/Asian groups.
Statistician General Pali Lehohla said not all chores affected children negatively.
“One should be careful that their attention is not detracted from what they have to do best‚ which is school. There are things that children have to do as part of socialisation‚” Lehohla said.
The survey found that of the 11.2 million children aged seven and 17‚ 21.6% were engaged in economic activities (market production or production for own consumption)‚ a decrease of 2.6 percentage points in 2015.
In 2015‚ the majority of children were involved in both studying and household chores‚ similar to a trend seen in 2010. The proportion of children who studied only was highest among the children aged between seven and 10 and it declined with age.
The survey said where both parents were alive‚ children were more likely to engage in studying activities only.
“For example in 2015‚ 21.7% of children with parents alive were involved in studying activities only compared to the 12.1% among those with none of the parents alive.
“The predicament of missing parents was further depicted in children who were involved in economic activities and household chores while they were studying. Approximately 31.7% of children who were without parents were in this category compared to 17.7% among those with both parents alive‚” the survey said.