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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Bureau of International Labor Affairs

ILAB Press Release: Labor Department To Fund Elimination Of Child Labor In Soccer Ball Industry [02/13/1997]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373 X 164 (office)

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced today it will fund a coordinated international project to eliminate child labor in the soccer ball manufacturing industry. The joint effort will include U.S. manufacturers, the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNICEF and the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan.

The Sialkot district in Pakistan accounts for almost 75% of the hand-stitched soccer balls in the world and, according to an ILO study, thousands of children work in the industry.

In making the announcement, acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Affairs Andrew Samet said, "This effort is the result of the priority the Labor Department placed on the soccer ball industry child labor problem last June. We are encouraged by the progress. Moreover, we are hopeful the effort will be fully and effectively implemented."

At a news conference last June, former Secretary Robert B. Reich resolved that before the decade was over there would be no children stitching soccer balls rather than getting an education. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Cal), Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D-Mass) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) joined Reich in the June effort. Today acting Secretary Cynthia A. Metzler observed, "We have taken an important step in making that resolution a reality."

Also in June last year, DOL offered to provide funding through the ILO's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), if the industry was ready to respond.

The project will remove children from the soccer ball industry in Sialkot and provide them with educational opportunities. The goal is to have all the children out of the business in 18 months. The Labor Department will commit $500,000 to the effort over the next two years. The funds, appropriated by Congress, are part of the department's ongoing support for IPEC. In addition, local manufacturers in Pakistan will provide approximately $360,000 to cover independent monitors, the Soccer Industry Council of America will contribute $100,000 and UNICEF will add $200,000.

The project will phase children out of the soccer ball industry in Pakistan, give them opportunities at education and establish both internal and independent monitoring to keep children out of the industry.

Samet heads up the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which directs the department's international child labor activities. He said that many organizations, businesses and individual consumers made their positions on the issue known to the department last year at a public hearing on international child labor or in written statements submitted to the department. It is particularly important to note that American companies helped lead this effort. Samet pointed out, "Reebok and Nike responded early to the challenge and have provided significant leadership in addressing the issue."

The Sialkot project is the sixth program the Labor Department is helping to fund through IPEC. Other projects have been initiated in Bangladesh, Thailand, Africa, Brazil and the Philippines.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Bureau of International Labor Affairs
February 13, 1997
Media Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number