Reporters on the Job

Soccer Stitching: Correspondent David Montero visited the Pakistani city where 80 percent of the world's soccer balls are stitched together by hand. His story looks at Nike's moral dilemma that arose over child labor: Enforce the rules or pull out and leave 20,000 families without income.

The average soccer ball stitcher completes 3.5 balls per day, and earns $66 per month.

David visited several factories with labor inspectors who work for a nonprofit group, the Independent Monitoring Association for Child Labor (IMAC), which oversees compliance at 3,000 soccer-ball stitching centers. "They pick a factory at random, and arrive unannounced to look around and make sure there are no children stitching there. They also look at other labor practices," says David.

"I didn't see any surprise or anger over their presence. They try to visit each stitching center once every six weeks, so people are used to them coming. Sometimes a center is nothing more than five women sitting in a room," he says. The IMAC's 12 monitors are funded by the soccer factories that voluntarily pay a certain amount to the Chamber of Commerce, which also chips in a sum.

Why is Sialkot the world's soccer manufacturing center? David heard several variations on one basic history, but admits it may be just urban lore. "About 100 years ago, there was a British military base in the area. One day, their leather soccer ball was damaged. They brought it to a local cobbler to get it repaired. He told them not only could he fix it, he could make a new one. They were so pleased with the new ball, that they ordered more, and industry was born," he says.

David saw no children during any of his factory visits. And, he chose not to buy a ball.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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