By James Rupert
June 9 (Bloomberg) — Asian workers who stitch nearly all the world’s soccer balls have seen little improvement in lives dominated by poverty, a report said days before the start of the World Cup, which promises sports gear companies a sales bonanza.
Thirteen years after companies such as Germany’s Adidas AG and Nike Inc. joined labor and development organizations to end the use of an estimated 7,000 children to stitch soccer balls, “child labor continues to exist” in the three main ball-making countries of Pakistan, China and India, according a June 7 report by the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum.
In those countries and Thailand, the fourth major ball- producer, adult workers often are paid too little to support their families. Some children still stitch balls at home, while others have migrated to new work, the report said.
“The international campaign of the 1990s removed bonded child labor from our soccer-ball industry, but these children moved to auto workshops, brick kilns and the like,” said Arshed Makhdoom Sabir, president of Ours Pakistan, a non-profit, development organization in Sialkot, Pakistan.
Sialkot is the hub of an industry that made about 75 percent of the world’s hand-sewn soccer balls in the 1990s, and still makes most high-quality balls, the ILRF report said. Adidas is marketing Sialkot-made replicas of its high-tech Jabulani, a machine-molded ball made in China for use in World Cup matches.
The labor forum’s researchers surveyed 218 workers for Sialkot companies that export balls and other products to sports retailers including Nike and Adidas, the two largest in the world.… Read the rest