Child Labour

All employees and employers in South Africa need to know about Minors and Youth and the workplace including laws on child trafficking and slave labour, underage employment
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Is Child Labour legal in South Africa?

No. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) makes it a criminal offence to employ a child under 15 years of age or under the minimum school-leaving age, if this is older. Chapter six of the BCEA explicitly deals with prohibition of employment of children and forced labour,

Children under 18 have a right to be protected from work that is exploitative, hazardous, inappropriate for their age, detrimental to their schooling, or detrimental to their social, physical, mental, spiritual, or moral development.

Children aged 15 to 18 may not be employed to do work inappropriate for their age or work that places them at risk.

What is meant by the term "work"?

The term "work" is not limited to economic activities (e.g. paid employment) but includes chores or household activities in the child's household (such as collecting wood and fuel), where such work is exploitative, hazardous, inappropriate for their age, or detrimental to their development.

The Constitution goes further by giving children further protection from exploitative labour practices.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

Yes. One such exception stipulates that a child of 15 years or younger may be employed in the performing arts with a valid permit from the Department of Labour.

What is Child Trafficking?

A child has been trafficked if he or she has been moved within a country, or across
borders, whether by force or not, with the purpose of labour exploitation.  In the case of a
child it is  not relevant whether the child consented to the movement or the
exploitation.  This is different in case of an adult, where failure to consent is a
requirement for trafficking to exist (unless the adult's “consent” was obtained through
What is being done to help prevent Child Labour?

The National Child Labour Programme of Action is a national plan for the elimination of child labour in South Africa. Formulated in 2003, it has been adopted by a large group of stakeholders including key government departments, lead by the Department of Labour.

Their aims include:

  • Promoting new legislative measure against worst forms of child labour
  • Strengthening of national capacity to enforce legislative measures
  • Increasing public awareness and social mobilisation against the worst forms of child labour.
Read more
Contact Child Welfare South Africa if you need more advice on child-related social issues.

Find out more about Forced Labour and CCMA Assistance.


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