70% to 80% of stitched soccer balls are made in Pakistan. 75% of these (60% of all world productionare made in the city of Sialkot
In the recent past, however, lack of modernisation and allegations of child labour usage have resulted in a loss of market share to the new entrants in the business like Thailand, Korea and China.
Supply Chain – The Status Quo
Over 50 international soccer ball brands rely on Sialkot to meet their customer demand and in 1997, the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce entered into an agreement with the International Labour Organization and UNICEF for the elimination of child labour from the soccer ball industry. The agreement is known as the Atlanta Agreement. With ILO monitoring, the various initiatives to eliminate child labour are showing results in lower school dropout rates and increased school enrolment.
In 1998, FIFA, the governing body for international soccer, established a code of conduct to prohibit the use of child labour and to require decent working conditions for adult workers. However available evidence points to routine violations of the code by manufacturers.
According to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the problem of eliminating the use of child labour is extremely complex, and that FIFA itself has neither "the experience nor the means to eradicate this wide-reaching problem on its own."
With the negative publicity, it is now suspected that some of the industry has moved to China and elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.
Working Conditions – The Status Quo
Most children are forced into labour to help their families survive. Ball stitching becomes home based family work where a middle man, acting on behalf of a sporting goods manufacturer, provides pieces for in-home production. While helping their parents, many of the children miss out on their education, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and uneducated labour.
The average daily earning of an adult male in ball stitching is around 20 rupees, about one-third of the Indian minimum wage of 63 rupees. The wages of children are even lower.
The International Labour Organization estimates there are more than 15 000 children stitching soccer balls in Pakistan.
How Fair Trade helps
The link between Fair Trade and soccer balls is child labour. According to recent reports, thousands of children in India and Pakistan are involved in the production of soccer balls. Workers in both countries are earning wages much lower than the legal minimum and basic human rights are routinely neglected.
Fair Trade standards for hired labour require that wages for workers equal at least the national minimum wage. Additionally, Fair Trade standards require that benefits and wages to workers are progressively improved.
Fair Trade standards require that producers do not use child labour.
Each Fair Trade certified sports ball producer has to have a Joint Body comprising of management, factory worker and stitcher representatives. The Joint Body consults with those they represent and decides upon the best use of the Fair Trade Premium money.
Women comprise a large percentage of the labour input of sports balls. Fair Trade standards ensure that there is no discrimination against women, and that facilities pertinent to women are provided by employers. Special consideration is given to the fact that in Joint Bodies, employers and workers/stitchers alike need to be especially aware of incorporating the voice of women in decision making, so that they and their families too can benefit.