Stitching sports balls is an important economic activity for workers in India, China, Indonesia and particularly Pakistan where, for the people of Sialkot region in the north of Pakistan, 75% of the world’s soccer balls are stitched.
Stitchers carefully sew sports balls by hand and are often paid based on the quantity of pieces sewn. As a result, workers spend long hours and rarely receive the legal minimum wage. Most workers are women who frequently face discrimination, and children who often work to increase the income of their families.
A 1996 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there were more than 7,000 children aged 5 to 14 working full time up to 11 hours a day stitching balls in the Sialkot region alone. This figure does not include the children working part-time or those working in other regions.
Fairtrade Standards that include a Fairtrade price and Fairtrade Premium target the challenges faced by sports ball stitchers. By restricting the use of child labour and paying wages for workers that equal at least the national minimum wage, workers and their communities have seen improvement.
Fairtrade certification requires workers to set-up a Fairtrade Premium Committee comprising of management, factory worker and stitcher representatives. This Committee receives the Fairtrade Premium and consults with those they represent to decide upon the use, whether it be for farmer services, community projects, schools or health care.