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Picture: 123RF/PERHAPZZZ
Picture: 123RF/PERHAPZZZ

The assistant director-general for the International Labour Organisation is absolutely correct, child labour is insidious and unfortunately pervasive ("Ending child labour is key to sustainable development", June 12). In SA we need to be on the lookout for abuse of this kind. However, we must not throw the baby out with the bath water.

I was involved a few years ago with a case where an international conglomerate had applied for work permits for children under the age of 15 to act in a well-known international musical. The American lawyers had put together an application timeously, indicating all the arrangements and protections they had put in place to ensure the children did not lose any schooling and did not have their health affected in any way. 

The payment to each successful candidate was going to be enormous, and the children were to be recruited from previously disadvantaged areas. The application was turned down on some unknown basis. I was engaged to appeal this negative result. I appeared in front of the appeal committee and explained that each child would be accompanied by a parent and would have strict protection, such as a teacher, a social worker and a governess. 

Over and above that, special accommodation would be supplied and the family would benefit from the payment for many years to come. In essence, after explaining all the arrangements to the committee they saw the folly in being overly cautious. The upshot was that the children were granted the work permits and the careers of those who were finally chosen were boosted considerably.

Michael Bagraim, MP
DA labour spokesperson

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