Child Labour in the Manufacturing and Sale of Liquor

A rapid assessment of the extent of children working in the making and selling of liquor in South Africa. Dissemination of the findings of the study to key stakeholders in the liquor industry and participants in the Government’s Child Labour Programme of Action.




International Labour Organisation (ILO)/Towards the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Programme (TECL).


Andrew Charman, Linda DeGuire


In 2006 SLC was contracted to undertake a rapid assessment study of the extent of children working in the making and selling of liquor in South Africa. In 2007 SLC was further contracted to disseminate the findings of the study to key stakeholders in the liquor industry and to participants in the government’s Child Labour Programme of Action.


The study methodology involved a literature review, analysis of existing liquor legislation at both national and provincial levels, and field research in three provinces: the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng Province. In obtaining primary evidence, SLC engaged with stakeholders from the Department of Labour, the liquor authorities, agencies involved with liquor law enforcement (SAPS), taverners and the owners of shebeens (illegal/unlicensed venues that sell liquor), industry representatives and civil society organisations.


On the basis of the number of shebeens currently in operation (approximately 265,000), the study estimates that somewhere between 165,000 and 250,000 children are involved in liquor-related work activities. This estimate is derived from interviews with shebeen traders, who revealed that children in their families are involved in the business roughly from the age of 12, mainly performing chores and assisting with the business on an ad hoc basis. The study also found evidence that children are engaged, and are often financially rewarded, to carry out piecework in support of shebeens. The study also found that children over 15 may be legally employed in selling liquor and other activities by licensed businesses, as permitted by provincial legislation. SLC concluded child labour in the liquor value chain has been under-reported. It concluded that children who work in environments that sell or supply liquor face high risks to both their health and social development. These environments increase their access to alcohol, while the work itself may have negative consequences on their educational development (through limiting their time and capacity for study) and may put the child at risk of physical and sexual abuse from drunken and disorderly clientele. SLC recommended that no child under the age of 18 be employed in serving alcohol and activities related to serving alcohol in the ‘onconsumption’ environment. Exemption should only be granted if he/she is engaged in a formal programme of skills development/training and where their employment conforms to BCEA regulations and occupational health and safety regulations pertaining to child labour. Furthermore, legislation should specifically prevent the use of casual child labour.


The study resulted in the amendment of the ethical code employed by the South African Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA). The ARA code is displayed in most licensed venues that sell liquor in all provinces. The amended code now contains the following stipulation:

‘Retail traders in alcohol beverages undertake to abide by the following:

“A minor may not be employed in the sale or supply of alcohol beverages unless specifically exempt for the purposes of training as set out in National and Provincial legislation.”’

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