Press for more detailed map of Pakistan

Source Alephenic; See also Lonely Planet Guide - Pakistan; Dangerous places; Country Profile; Another Profile

NIKE GLOBE PROJECT: Find the non-disclosed locations of Nike factories. Where are the secret Nike factories? As soon as we systematically identify where they are, we can monitor what they are doing.  

NEW We also want to find comparable (non-Nike) factories where working conditions are better. For example, What are the condition of factories where New Mexico State University Campus Story buys its garments with our logo on them?

Contact at Academics Studying Nike, if you know where they are.






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EXHIBIT A: The 1996 Life Magazine Story that Created a Revolution in the Soccer Industry. Excerpts...

SOURCE:  Schanberg, Sydney H. (1996) "On the playgrounds of America, Every Kid's Goal is to Score: In Pakistan, Where children stitch soccer balls for Six Cents an hour, the goals is to Survive." Photo by Marie Dorigny. Additional reporting by Jimmie Briggs. Life Magazine (June) pp. 38-48.  

Please press on photo to see larger size photo - Lafe Magazine 1996

CAPTION: Children are not only the easiest to intimidate, they're also the cheapest workers. Twelve-year-old Tariq, one of thousands employed in Pakistan's soccer ball industry, which produces five million balls a year for the U.S. market, stitches leather pieces in Mahotra. He earns 60 cents a ball, and it takes most of a day to make one (Schanberg, 1996: 38). 

    As our jeep approaches the roadside shed in Mahotra, a village in northern Pakistan, I can see a dozen children and men stitching hexagonal leather pieces into Nike soccer balls. Twelve-year-old Tariq squats in front, having come out of the dank interior for air. At his feet are several white balls with the distinctive Nike swoosh that will soon be finding their way to stores and playing fields in the United States.

    My guide, Sadiq, a gutsy Pakistani human rights worker, suggests I not announce my true profession and pose instead as an American interested in setting up shop in Pakistan to make soccer balls for export. It isn't honest - but it's safer. In recent months, Western journalists have been threatened and assaulted for reporting on child labor in this still-feudal society, particularly in those industries where legions of small children toil for 60 cents a day to make products for export to the U.S., and other developed countries. Sadiq himself had been beaten not long ago by toughs hired by soccer ball factory owners.

    Afzal Butt, the 19-year-old foreman whose brother owns this village factory, quickly warms to the smell of business. "I can get you as many as 100 stitchers if you need them," he says. "Of course, you'll have to pay off their peshgi  to claim them."

    He is referring to the money each of the workers owes his brother-$150 to $180-a debt incurred when they were bought from their parents, or later on from another owner, which bonds them to their master. By law, peshgi is banned in Pakistan, but the practice remains as common as the flies that swarm about the faces of workers.  The masters call it an advance against wages, but few workers are ever able to retire the debt, child workers least of all because they are paid even less than adults. 

Six-Year-Olds are Bought from their parents for less than $15.

This is the key to understanding the pervasiveness of child labor in the third world. Everywhere I went, first in Pakistan, then in India, I was told by the masters that children have agile hands and nimble fingers that make them specially gifted at certain tasks, such as weaving hand-loomed carpets and stitching soccer balls. But if children are so gifted why pay them less per soccer ball than adults?...

    With so many multinational companies - Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Mitre, Umbro, Brine - operating in Pakistan, it seemed a logical place to start. Which is how I cam to be in Mahotra.

    I tell Afral Butt I'll consider his offer of bonded workers, but first I need one of the Nike balls for my engineers to test. No problem, he says, selling me one for 200 rupees (roughly $6).  That's what it cost to make a quality soccer ball in Pakistan, in labor and materials, with a profit thrown in-just $6.  In the U.S., these balls sell for $30 to %50. More than half the nine million soccer balls imported into the U.S. each year come from Pakistan and all enter the country tariff-free.  The words Hand Made are printed clearly on every ball' not printed is any explanation of whose hands made them.

    For the rest of that day in Pakistan, I keep thinking: Someone actually offered to sell me 100 men and children for less than $200 apiece. In effect, I would have owned them. This thought haunted me throughout my trip and, later, when I talked to soccer industry officials.

    "It's an ages-old practice," says Nike spokeswoman Donna Gibbs, acknowledging that her company hasn't implemented its stated goal of eliminating child labor in the production of soccer balls. "And the process of change is going to take time. Too often, well-intentioned human rights groups can cause dramatic negative effects if they scare companies into stopping production and the kids are thrown out on the street." 

    Pakistan's own Human Rights Commission estimates that 11 million children under 14 work six days a week, nine to 10 hours a day, at grinding, illness-breeding jobs in work sheds, brick factories and sun-grilled fields.  They represent a quarter of the country's menial workforce, and their numbers keep rising.  Two years ago the median age of children entering the workforce was eight. Now it is seven. 

    Siakot, a bustling city of 3000,000 about 70 miles from Lahore, is the hub of the nation's soccer ball industry, producing about 35 million balls a year.  But the city's clean, well lit factories are not where the children are.  The factories are manned by adults who heat-press logos onto the leather, die-cut the six-sided pieces and make plastic-bag kits of 32 pieces plus an inflatable bladder. Loaded onto trucks, these kits are then farmed out to the villages, where the most crucial part-the stitching-is performed.

    Stitching sheds are visible in every hamlet, but at each stop the masters shout at the boys to run when they see foreigners with cameras. And the ragged, barefoot kids, fearing a beating from their masters, dash into the thickets and rice fields beyond. At one compound that resembles a nest of grungy one-car garages, with no lights or ventilation, the soccer masters run shed to shed, yelling at the children to strip off the rubber finger-wraps designed to protect them from vicious thread cuts and to flee for cover. But one child doesn't get out in time. As the masters glare and mutter, I ask him about his work.

    "I have a hearing problem, so I cannot speak well," the boy, Kafayat, says in Urdu.  His diction belies his story: his words are well-formed.  I eventually learn that he is eight, has never been to school and has been stitching in the same shed for three years. He is paid 30 cents for each synthetic leather ball he stitches. The balls carry the brand name Cobra and are stamped FIFA Approved. (FIFA is the international soccer federation.)

    At another emptied shed, where Adidas balls are being stitched, we are suddenly surrounded by shouting men. One protests that an American TV broadcast last year hurt business. Another gang of soccer masters comes up the dusty street, adding to the atmosphere of menace. Their focus is our unflinching guide. "I was in the group that beat you up when you brought foreign journalists around here last year," one growls at Sadiq. We decide to retreat, driving hurriedly out of the village, followed by two men on a motorcycle. They wear white Western-style shirts and sunglasses, trademarks of the Pakistani police, who are routinely bribed by the soccer masters. They speed past us into Sumbrial, another of Sialkot's stitching satellites.

    The soccer ball bush-telegraph system has done its work. The sheds in Sumbrial are empty of children. A few men look after mounds of finished balls. A Toyota pickup truck from one of the factories is collecting giant nylon drawstring bags, 50 balls to a bag. In one shed, Adidas balls are heaped at the back under a sign that reads" "SUBLIME stitching centre. Stitchers under 16 age not allowed." 

    Sublime is a Sialkot factory that Adidas, the biggest soccer ball manufacture in Pakistan, has subcontracted with to produce its balls. Amin Javed, chairman of Sublime, cannot be reached for comment, but in the past he has said of child labor: "It is done behind our face... I have no authority to [order] in he villages that the children should not work." 

    Adidas deals with Sublime through an agent, the Japanese sporting goods company Molten. "We do not own any factories," says John Fread, an Adidas spokesman. "We license our ballmaking through Molten. They in turn do the actual factory-sourcing and production. [It's] all subcontracted out." ("Out: is a popular word with sporting goods companies-as in "subcontracting out," "out-sourcing," even "out-stitching." Translation: "Somebody else hires the children, not us.")

    Fread, who says he and other company executives have seen child labor in Pakistan, echoes a common soccer industry refrain: "Pakistan has a very different culture. We can't just sit back and say whether it's right or wrong."

    Industry officials say they have hired a consultant and are working with the Soccer Industry Council of America to address the problem. The effort is still in the embryonic phase, and no money has been committed to any reform measures, such as the creation of schools. But money is available: Nike spends $280 million a year on advertising, not including the millions it pays athletes who endorse it s products... 


Silgi is only three. Her hands are so tiny she can't handle a scissors. But she started stitching soccer balls recently to help her mother and four sisters. Together they earn 75 cents a day working in their shanty home in Jullundur, India (Sidebar to Life Magazine Story, p 41  NOTE: There is a photo (Source) of a young girl dressed in town and soiled clothing next to the soccer ball clutching a needle and thread. The needle is longer than her fingers.

I think my understanding of child labor and its deep roots is about as clear as that of most American corporations. I observed it up close when I was posted in India for three years in the 1970s as a correspondent for The New York Times. What I learned then, and again now, was that to accept the system as immutable is to make it immutable. Boycotts and trade embargoes may not be a solution (though often they have a way of getting the attention of intransigent governments), but doing nothing or next to nothing is an antisolution.

    "We used to just say it was a poverty problem," says Rolfe Carriere, UNICEF's representative in Bangladesh. "Our own resignation has accommodated the persistence of child labor for a long time."

    One antidote to child labor is education. The most effective human rights organization in Pakistan, the Bonded Labor Liberation Front (BLLF), has opened 240 free primary schools for poor children, among them many of the 30,000 bonded workers the group has freed over the past eight years. Its success has made it a hated target of the government, which harasses its workers and files false criminal charges against them. Citing the threat of terrorism, police even raided BLLF's offices with weapons drawn, carrying off everything but the desks and chairs. 

    At one BLLF school school northwest of Lahore, 67 students are learning reading and geography, as well as receiving instruction in self-reliance...A focus on primary education, international studies have found, is the common ingredient in the success of Asia's fastest-growing economies, such as South Korea's. In short, schools are good business.

    Why, then, aren't Western corporations that earn their profits in poor countries talking about schools? Possible because it might cost them some money.  Back home, the same multinationals demonstrate their commitment to the communities where they have their headquarters and factories by spending money to upgrade schools and ghetto housing. But with a handful of exceptions, such as Levi Strauss and Gillette, these companies have no budgets for their "out-sourced" communities in the third world...

    ... four-year-olds stitching soccer balls with needles longer than their fingers....trying to do good enough work to avoid the masters' blows. All this takes place against a backdrop of rising affluence enjoyed by the privileged classes-lavish villas with high walls topped by iron spies and satellite dishes on the roofs, luxury cars driven by liveried chauffeurs...

EXHIBIT B: What was Nike's Response to the Life Magazine Story?






Click to go to New Internationalist July 1997 story




November, 1997- "Monitors Scan Pakistan for child-labor soccer balls." (Nando Times) NEW YORK (November 12, 1997 3:41 p.m. EST -- Fifteen monitors will begin crisscrossing a region of Pakistan next week to ensure children aren't making soccer balls anymore, a coalition of sporting goods makers and child advocacy groups said... Up to 10,000 Pakistani children have been reported stitching balls in home and small shops, receiving little pay for working up to 10 hours a day. Seventy-five percent of the world's $1 billion soccer ball industry is in Pakistan, mostly in Sialkot.


On April 16th, 1995, the shotgun slaying of a 12-year old boy in a remote Pakistani village drew international
headlines. The boy, Iqbal Masih had, just a year earlier, been the youngest recipient of the international Reebok
Human Rights Youth in Action Award. Unfortunately, Iqbal’s story as a child laborer is not uncommon in today’s
Pakistan (The Tragedy of Child Labor, an edited version of the article originally published in the Summer 1996 issue of Working People). 

Actually, it is Nike and Reebok's contractors who have set up those centers. Reebok contracts for its soccer ball production with Moltex, and Nike with Saga. In fairness, while both Nike and Reebok have put considerable sums into make the stitching centers a reality, neither company is the major customer of its contractor and thus both companies have limited say in the operations of their contractors.

To its credit, Reebok readily granted access to its Moltex-managed center, to which McCurry made both announced and surprise visits. What McCurry saw at Moltex was not entirely reassuring: a potential for child-made balls from outside the factory to be shipped along with adult-made balls from within the factory -- a practice known as "mixing." When McCurry raised his concerns to Reebok officials, they appeared to take the findings seriously and promised to investigate and then  writing, he is awaiting the Reebok reply (HIDDEN CHILD LABOR IN SOCCER BALLS PLANTS CONTRACTED BY NIKE AND REEBOK? Report of Campaign for labor rights 1.8.97).