GENEVA (ILO News) - The International Labour Office today formed a partnership with the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and UNICEF with the goal of eliminating child labour in the soccer ball industry in Sialkot, Pakistan (Punjab Province), during the next 18 months.
The Agreement, signed in Atlanta, Georgia, marks the first time that organizations representing multinational corporations and their local suppliers have joined with international organisations in a concerted effort to eliminate child labour from this specific industrial sector. The Sialkot district alone produces nearly 75 per cent of the world's hand-stitched soccer balls for an export markets that generates US$ 1 billion in retail sales annually. A recent ILO study estimated that as many as 7,000 children currently work in the industry.
Spending on the Sialkot project is expected to reach approximately US$ 1 million during the next 24 months, including contributions of at least US$ 500,000 from the ILO (consisting of funds received from the US Government), roughly US$ 360,000 from local manufacturers (to fund the costs of the independent monitor), US$ 100,000 from the Soccer Industry Council of America (to support elements of the Social Protection Programme) and US$ 200,000 from UNICEF.
The Agreement follows an initiative launched by The World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry and the Soccer Industry Council of America, which represent more than 50 sporting goods brands, to eliminate child labour from the production of soccer balls in Pakistan.
The Agreement signed today sets up a programme to assist manufacturers and assemblers of soccer balls in identifying and removing child labourers from the industry and providing them with educational and other opportunities. The programme, which is voluntary, calls upon manufacturers to publicly commit to a series of actions designed to prevent the practice of stitching by children under 14 years of age, by requiring the formal registration of all contractors, all stitching locations and all stitchers (including documentation of their ages).
Mr. Kari Tapiola, ILO Deputy Director-General, praised the Agreement as "an important first step in linking the energies of international organisations, industry groups, workers and governments in the battle against the scourge of child labour." He called upon all signatories to work vigilantly to meet the terms of the agreement and called upon other industry groups to take similar initiatives.
The ILO's International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is also working in Sialkot on a broader initiative encompassing other sectors where child labour is to be found, such as the manufacturing of surgical instruments, brick kilns, domestic service, agriculture and other hazardous forms of work.
The Agreement signed today contains provisions for the establishment of an internal monitoring system to exercise oversight within companies (including contractors and sub-contractors) producing soccer balls. Under the terms of the Agreement, manufacturers also agree to comply with independent monitoring. An Independent Monitoring Body will be established to provide periodic reports to the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry for public dissemination to customers and consumers worldwide.
A Coordinating Committee, including ILO, UNICEF and SCCI plus the international non-governmental organisation, Save the Children Fund (UK), will be set up to implement the terms of the accord, provide technical cooperation and make public, on a regular basis, status reports on the project and its results.
Manufacturers also commit themselves to working closely with the ILO and other organisations in order to ensure that children removed from the workplace are provided with rehabilitation, education and in-kind assistance consistent with the Social Protection Programme outlined in the Agreement. In addition to providing immediate practical assistance, the Programme will seek to change community attitudes toward child labour, notably by increased awareness raising among the affected community and income generation.