Year: 2003
Working paper number: 045
Author: Bray, Rachel
Unit: SSU

This paper examines available survey data on children's participation in household work in the light of findings of primary ethnographic research with children and their families in two neighbouring urban communities. Its purpose is to shed light on the current process of policy development on child labour in South Africa, particularly in the light of mounting concern around additional work burdens on children caused by HIV/AIDS. The analysis contextualises children's work in the home within broader socio-economic trends and cultural norms around child-rearing, thus exposing the need to question the classification of different types of 'work' and 'risk' used in surveys. The ethnographic study revealed that the participation of children in everyday household chores is viewed as a function of their roles as members of a household and family, as part of their duty to their seniors and as an opportunity to learn skills required in adulthood. In this context, risk factors to child well-being are related not to their working roles, but to aspects of the broader socio-economic and physical environment that restrict or compromise children's development opportunities. A key lesson to be drawn from this paper is that the ability to question and re-frame international measurement criteria relies on the availability of longitudinal surveys and qualitative research on childhood, schooling and household dynamics in a variety of contexts in South Africa.

Publication file: wp45.pdf