The majority of sports balls are hand-stitched, often by people who work long hours in poor conditions for far less than legal minimum wage.
Below you can find out about:
- Problems facing workers in the sports ball industry
- Benefits of Fairtrade for workers
- Fairtrade certified producers
- Buying and selling Fairtrade sports balls
- Fairtrade Standards for sports balls
Problems facing workers in the sport ball industry
About 75% of footballs are produced in Pakistan, mostly in the poor Sialkot region in the north.
Football, volleyball, basketball, and rugby are played the world over, but most people don’t think twice about the origin of the sports balls that are so central to these games. The majority of these balls are hand-stitched, often by people who work long hours in poor conditions. About 75% of footballs are produced in Pakistan, mostly in the poor Sialkot region in the north. There are about 40,000 people in this region working in soccer ball production. The next biggest producers are India, China and Indonesia. Other stitched sports balls, including volleyballs and rugby balls, are also produced in these regions.
Workers stitch balls both in factories as part of a production line and in their own homes, receiving ball pieces, ready for stitching, from manufacturers.
Incomes below legal minimum wages
The income for sports balls stitchers is usually based on the quantity of pieces sewn, rather than an hourly wage. Either way, most workers receive very little. In an effort to make sufficient money to cover basic needs, workers often put in many extra hours of overtime. Many work upwards of ten or 12 hours a day including weekends. Regardless, their incomes are far below legal minimum wage. In India, the average wage for people stitching balls is 20 rupees, a third of the minimum wage of 63 rupees.
In India, the average wage for people stitching balls is 20 rupees, a third of the minimum wage of 63 rupees.
Because of their poverty, parents are forced to supplement their own inadequate incomes by having their children work as well. A 1996 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there were more than 7000 children aged five 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.
Benefits of Fairtrade for workers
The Fairtrade system gives workers and stitchers in the sports ball industry an opportunity to improve their lives.
Among other things, Fairtrade Standards for sport balls production include the following:
- Fairtrade Standards for hired labor require that wages for workers equal at least the national minimum wage. Additionally, Fairtrade Standards require that benefits and wages to workers are progressively improved.
- Fairtrade Standards require that producers do not use child labor.
- Each Fairtrade certified sports ball producer has to have a Fairtrade Premium Committee comprising representatives of factory workers and stitchers. The Fairtrade Premium Committee consults with those they represent and decides upon the best use of the Fairtrade Premium money.
Fairtrade certified producers
To find out which sport ball factories are currently Fairtrade certified, you can check the database available on the FLO-CERT website.
Find Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premiums