Human Rights: Soccer Balls

How much did that soccer ball cost that you kick around a field during gym class? The price doesn't matter much, but a good soccer ball costs between $100 and $200.  Of course, you can get cheaper balls, but that doesn't matter.

Most likely that soccer ball, regardless of the cost, was stitched together using child or debt labor.

A child in Pakistan stitches together a Nike soccer ball.  Wall Street Journal.
Back in 1996, Life magazine ran a story about child labor in Nike factories, featuring the photograph above.  This touched off a firestorm of controversy.  Sadly, not much has changed in regard to conditions in these factories.

"Debt bondage" is a form of forced labor that is akin to slavery.  In order to pay off a debt, a person is forced to work with addition months added as a form of interest, making the debt virtually unpayable.  Often, children are placed into debt bondage in order to help a family pay off a debt.

  • Nearly 1/2 of the world's soccer balls are made in Sialkot, Pakistan
  • There are 650 stitches in 1 soccer ball
  • It is estimated that 1/4 of the 35 million soccer balls made in Pakistan are made by children under the age of 14
  • In India, where it is technically illegal to keep children from going to school, tens of thousands of children work in the soccer ball industry, working 10-15 hours a day stitching together soccer balls
  • In India, the work is done at home, making child labor "invisible"
  • Children as young as 6 years old have been found stitching soccer balls
  • Children earn roughly 15¢ for every ball they stitch together.  It takes about 4 hours to stitch on ball.

A woman sews soccer balls in Pakistan. Wall Street Journal.


"Poor children made to stitch sports balls in sweatshops"
Products of Slavery
In Pakistan, The World Capital Of Soccer Ball Production