Reconciling child labour practices in South Africa with international standards : prospects and challenges.
Child labour proves to be a social and economic problem throughout the world. Millions of children around the world remain trapped in child labour, compromising their individual and collective futures. However, while child labour is a problem that affects children worldwide, it is a phenomenon that is of particular concern amongst developing countries. Research indicates that Sub-Saharan Africa still continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour. As a result of such concerns, the ILO has enacted various Conventions aimed at eradicating child labour globally. South Africa’s support of international conventions aimed at eradicating child labour implies a high degree of concern for the welfare of the child and is indeed laudable. Working children are subjected to extreme forms of exploitation. However, statistics relating to the extent of child labour leads one to question whether a one-size-fits-all approach can deal adequately with this complex issue in countries that differ fundamentally from the West with regards to their socioeconomic and cultural circumstances. For example, within traditional societies in South Africa, child work is viewed as part of ones socialization and development. In addition, given the socioeconomic circumstances within South Africa many children work in order to contribute to the survival of their families. Thus while acknowledging the negative effects of child labour on the development of the child, this dissertation stresses that in order to be effective, interventions on child labour should take into account the very circumstances that compel children to engage in child labour in South Africa. In this regard this dissertation argues that a child centered approach to child labour should be adopted. This approach is rigorously child centered, taking as its point of departure the child, how the child experiences work and what the child needs to survive and develop. A child centered approach will essentially make less use of minimum age laws, public sector inspection of workplaces, although these might still have a vital role to play. It instead relies more on mobilizational activities such as poverty reduction, advocacy campaigns, child participation and improvement of school accessibility. This dissertation concludes by arguing that ultimately a child centered approach will ensure that the best interest of the child is protected.