Excitement is reaching fever pitch in the lead up to the biggest global sporting event since the Olympics: the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The finals kick off on 12 June in South Africa. World Vision will be busy on 12 June, marking the day with another event: World Day Against Child Labour. So - what’s that got to do with the World Cup?
It may not be immediately obvious - unless you’ve been to the north of India. World Vision’s Campaign Leader on Human Trafficking, Susan Mizrahi, travelled to India in February this year. What she found there confirmed that all is not fair play when it comes to sports and soccer balls.
Meerut vs. Jalandhar – what’s the score?
Meerut is situated in Uttar Pradesh, about 56km north-east of New Delhi. In this city, many children spend their precious childhoods stitching soccer balls for the Indian domestic market. It’s mainly girls who are required to stay home and stitch all day to contribute to their family’s income. Often this means missing out on an education.
Stitching soccer balls may not be among the worst forms of child labour, but it’s certainly hazardous.
Stitching soccer balls is tough work for little hands. Children often sustain septic cuts to their fingers and suffer chronic back, neck and leg pain from sitting in a hunched position for hours at a time. The most a child can earn doing this work is about 3-5 Indian Rupees (INR) per ball. That’s a starting price of around 7 Australian cents.
It’s very different in the district of Jalandhar, where soccer balls for the export market are made. Child stitchers mostly work after school or on weekends to supplement their family’s income. They can earn about 15-30 INR, or up to 75 Australian cents.
Why do conditions differ so much?
Over the last 10 years, export manufacturers have been under intense international scrutiny to clean up their supply chains and eradicate child labour. In 2006, Nike severed its ties with its soccer balls manufacturer, Saga Sport, for violating Nike’s own code of conduct relating to child labour.
But we can’t just assume children are free from exploitation in Jalandhar. When manufacturers get more orders than their stitching centres can handle, they outsource to contractors. Raw materials are then handed to families in village households to stitch together. It’s at this point that even the big brands can lose control of their supply chains.
World Vision calls on Australian consumers and all sports goods manufacturers to consider how they can address this issue. It’s not fair play to use child labour to make sports balls. Big brands should know their supply chains are transparent, traceable and independently variable, free from all forms of labour exploitation.
Now that you know the connection...
As you set up camp in front of the TV in your Socceroos jumper, remember the connection between soccer and the World Day Against Child Labour. You can act now to kick child labour out of soccer balls:
- Join Don’t Trade Lives, World Vision’s campaign against human trafficking and slavery.
- Email soccer ball brands and retailers about their ethical practices through Chainstore Reaction.