Imagine you’re seven years old, growing up in America. At that age, you’re biggest worry is probably whether or not there’s a Snack Pack pudding waiting for you in your lunch box at school. If you’re a seven year old growing up in Pakistan, for instance, you may have bigger worries. By the 1990s, 75% of the soccer balls produced in the world where made in the Sialkot District of Pakistan (globalization101.org). It’s estimated that 7,000 children from 5-14 were involved in manually manufacturing the soccer balls (globalization101.org). Seeing as how it’s Youth Soccer Month, it seemed like the perfect time to remind everyone that this is still going on today.
It’s easy to let something like children sewing together pieces of a soccer ball for a wage slip through the cracks, when there are children being raped and murdered daily all over the world. That mentality, though, is a contributing reason to why there are 10 year olds kept out of school to work for a wage so meager it’s laughable . Even though spending 8-11 hours a day stitching together a ball might not be the worst thing that could happen to these children, it’s certainly deplorable and ludacris that in the year 2012, children aren’t being educated because they have to stay home or go to a factory to sew sporting equipment. The companies that these children are working for know that their products are being outsourced to the areas where they can find the cheapest labor. You can’t find a much better place than a city or country that is so desperately poor that they are forced to send their 5 year old to work so they are able to feed their family. These billion dollar companies need to be held accountable for taking advantage of these conditions.
Fortunately, steps have already been taken to eradicate the need for child laborers. Machine stitching has been able to replace child labor and companies like Saga Sports who make balls for Nike and others have started paying their employees a salary instead of per ball and have enhanced work conditions.That is a fantastic that improvements are being made, however, a huge problem still remains. The reason these children were manufacturing soccer balls in the first place was because they needed the money to help support their families. Now that that the soccer balls are being outsourced to different countries and sewn with machines, the income that these children once had is gone. What a perfect example of a double edge sword. On the one hand children shouldn’t be out of school, working 10 hour days but they may starve without that income for food. So what to do? I wish I had the perfect solution. Obviously, getting an education is important to provide for themselves and their families in the future, but while they are in school their family will still struggle.The closest thing to a solution I think would have to come from the governments in these countries. If they could lower the income gap, it would no longer be worth it to keep children out of school to work for practically nothing. However, that would require very corrupt governments to get on board. A more realistic solution would be for the companies outsourcing these products to simply up the wage they’re paying these children. The average price per ball they’re paid is 50 cents. If they paid even 75 cents to a dollar per ball, the children would only have to work half the amount of time to make the same money they need to feed their families. That might give them the chance to use that extra time to go to school. Unfortunately, it may backfire and children could be forced to work even longer hours to create even more income.
Kids should be able to enjoy their childhood without the responsibilities of being an adult. They should be given the opportunity to go to school so they are able to help break the cycle of poverty that has them in the conditions their family is in. It shouldn’t be up to the kids to help financially support their families, the income their parents make should be enough. Therein lies the problem, when the economy is at a place where people aren’t trying to survive in a few dollars or less a day, then there is a chance that child labor won’t be seen as a necessity any longer.
To help the cause you can send a letter to FIFA using http://www.cleanclothes.org/campaigns/soccer-ball-stitchers-need-your-support or start a petition on Change.org. Signing an online petition might not seem like much, but big changes have been made with less. When companies see that their consumers find their business practices unacceptable to the point where it can affect their revenue, it’s amazing how quick they are to make changes.
By: Danae Zimmer