Child labour in football stitching is still very much prevalent today, especially in Pakistan and India while sporting clothes and shoes are sourced from many different countries including Indonesia, China and Vietnam
How many children are working?
Child labour in football stitching is still very much prevalent today, especially in Pakistan and India while sporting clothes and shoes are sourced from many different countries including Indonesia, China and Vietnam. There are indications that child labour and labour right violations are prevalent in these countries as well but exact figures are not known. Children have also been found working in different countries in the sporting clothes and sporting shoes sector. According to a report from the year 2000, there are believed to be around 10,000 children in Punjab, India alone who stitch footballs. The statistics from the ILO Sialkot Project suggest that there may be more than 15,000 children stitching footballs in Pakistan.
Compared to other sectors of child labour, we are not too far way from the total elimination of child labour in football stitching and sporting goods industry. Through effective campaigning and each of us demanding for children's right to play and to attend school and for their families to receive fair wage, we can end child labour in the sporting goods industry!
Where does it take place?
Pakistan is the largest producer of the football with India in the second place. The Mahashak, 'the traditional stitchers' community started developing in the districts of Jalandhar, Batala and Ludhiana in India. The Mahashak of Jalandhar and Batala are deeply engaged in football stitching.
However due to negative publicity of child labour in sporting goods industry in India and Pakistan, we now suspect that some of the industry may have moved to China and elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.
What is the common working environment of football stitchers?
Most of the football stitchers are under-paid. The pay depends of the contractor or their skills, however, a study shows that about half of the stitchers in India are living below the poverty line. Four out of ten households involved in football stitching are headed by illiterate adults. About 90% of the households belong to the 'untouchables' (scheduled castes in India) or Dalits.
Many of them suffer from loss of eyesight, chronic back and neck pains, cuts on their fingers and even deformation of their fingers. For younger children, these conditions can last for their lifetime since proper treatment is usually not given.
Stitchers are not organized in a union to demand their collective rights to fair working conditions and to fair wages.
There are two types of child stitchers. Some of them go to school and stitch after school hours and other children stitch footballs full-time. Even though children work part-time, they are often not able to concentrate on their studies due to fatigue and time devoted to working instead of playing and studying. Children as young as 5 years old can be found stitching footballs. Of all full-time working children in India, 37% are between 5 and 12 years old.
How much do they get paid?
The average daily earning of an adult male in football stitching is around Rs.20 (less than half a dollar) which is about one third of the present minimum wage of Rs.63 a day in India. The children get paid even less. Stitchers are normally not aware of the concept of minimum wage. For the stitchers working from their own homes, rent and electricity is not even taken into consideration and must be paid from their meager wages.
Efforts by the Sporting Goods Industry
Since the negative publicity of child labour in sporting goods industry, the industry has been putting their efforts to bring an end to child labour. The Sports Goods Foundation India was launched by the World Federation of Sports Goods Industry and endorsed by FIFA. These efforts have contributed to improving the working conditions of adults and removing some children from work. However, the efforts must be accelerated and joined with civil society organisations to increase its effectiveness and transparency.
- GEPA - Fairly Traded Footballs From Pakistan
- Sialkot Project: Report by Sialkot Chamber of Commerce; Dec 2001
- WFSGI - Program in India
- Sports Goods Foundation of India
- World Federation of Sports Goods Industry - Model Code of Conduct
- FIFA Code of Labour Practice
Efforts by Other Organisations
- UNICEF Projects with FIFA
- ILO-IPEC in Sialkot
- New Zealand Official Development Assistance - Good Governance Program