Executive Summary of the Global March Report
on the Football Stitching Industry of Pakistan

This report presents research done over a two month period in and around the Sialkot District of Pakistan. Child labour in the football goods industry is still alive and thriving in Pakistan despite efforts made by the sporting goods industry, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and numerous other actors. Our investigation has found that child labour is involved in the stitching of Coca Cola and Adidas balls, both of which are major sponsors of the FIFA 2002 World Cup.

Sialkot was the sole producer of footballs for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, according to the Adidas Pakistan Country Manager quoted in the Financial Times. Pakistan remains the largest football producer worldwide with some 3559 sporting goods producers concentrated in Sialkot and the industry accounting for $1 billion of Pakistani exports.

In 1994 Pakistan joined the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and in February 1997 it started the Sialkot Project to end the use of child labour in football stitching. The project aims to educate the children who work in the football stitching industry, giving them access to free schooling during the day and allowing them to work part-time in their houses to bring in extra income.

As part of the project companies sign an agreement with the ILO for the establishment of a monitoring system aimed at eliminating child labour. The project has been largely successful in Sialkot with basic education being provided to 5,000 former child labourers, but the monitoring system has its faults since pieces of footballs still leave Sialkot for villages well outside the Sialkot District limits, to be stitched by adults and children in unsupervised and unmonitored stitching centres or in their homes.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation it became clear that children outside the monitored zone spend many hours, some up to 14 hours per day, sitting in the same position, holding the pieces of leather tightly between their knees to stitch them. Many suffer from eye sight problems from focusing intensively in dark rooms for long hours, from needle pricks, cuts and perforations on their hands and fingers, from twisted fingers caused by pulling on the string, and from back aches. The salaries of the adults and children are in no way guaranteed as they only receive payment on delivery, and they often have to involve the whole household to earn a single adult's minimum wage.

Our research mainly focused on the villages around Sangla Hill, a cluster of villages that are more than 250 kilometres away from Sialkot city and the monitoring system of the ILO-IPEC project.

In Gujranwala, four households were visited where women and young girls were stitching footballs. They were all involved in the stitching of ACME Enterprise World Cup 2002 promotional balls. In one household, three sisters worked as a chain, where the first two (aged 6 and 7 years) made holes in the pieces of leather and then passed the pieces to their 8 year old sister so the football could be stitched together. These workers receive 13 Pakistani rupees per ball and stitch an average of 4 to 5 balls per day.

In the investigation of three neighbouring villages of Sangla Hill, we found that almost all households were involved in the stitching of footballs. In most cases it is women who are involved in these activities since the stitching takes place in-house, while their husbands and older sons work the fields.

The children, ranging from 8 to 14 years of age, were mainly involved in the stitching of smaller promotional balls, such as the Coca Cola ball seen in the pictures attached to this report and "The Economist" promotional balls in the video. Some children who show good skill earlier than their peers will be moved to a larger ball, such as the size 5 Adidas ball seen in the photos.

The workers in Nandichack, Sangla Hill and Rotigna receive, on average, Rs.10 (USD $0.17) for the small size promotional balls and Rs. 20 (USD $0.34) for the size 5 export quality balls. Adults say that they can stitch up to 10 promotional balls in one day, or 5 official size balls.

Through an arrangement with a middleman settled in Sialkot city, large bags with the football pieces and the mapping are put on a train and delivered to the Sangla Hill station. At that point the pieces are picked up by middlemen for the different villages and distributed amongst the households. Once finished they are put on the train to head back to Sialkot, and then delivered to the different companies. According to our sources, this includes major producers such as JSD and Saga Sports.

Saga Sports is one of the largest and most important football producers in Pakistan, holding all the largest contracts. They are also a signatory to the monitoring system that was put in place by ILO-IPEC. Their employees, who work in Sialkot city, were allowed to unionise and are now members of the All Pakistan Federation of Labour (APFOL) and are paid salaries equivalent to university teachers in Pakistan. However, this investigation has found that Saga and JSD balls still make their way to the hands of children far away from the city lights of Sialkot.

May 2002

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - June 4, 2002