The city of Sialkot in Pakistan produces as many as 60 million hand-stitched soccer balls in a year -- and the firms here are running out of new workers since child labor was abolished. Western buyers may have a clear conscience, but the children of Sialkot now toil in the local brickworks instead, reports Hasnain Kazim.
The workers earn 65 to 75 cents per ball. "On a good day I manage six balls," says Shaukat."That's not a lot of money. But it's not little either." On average the people of Sialkot earn $1,370) a year, twice the national average, thanks to the sports goods industry.
The material -- per ball, 20 hexagonal patches and 12 pentagons of synthetic leather plus the bladder and thread -- is supplied by the company Forward Sports. It sells the balls to Adidas for between $7 and $14 per ball.
The Pakistani suppliers have had a good reputation among global sports firms ever since child labor was officially banned here. Children as young as 10 years old used to stitch balls until there was an international outcry about it. Parents now send their children to the brickworks and into metalworking companies where no one is worried about corporate image.