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Published by: Kyodo News Service, 17-1-2002      

Campaign against child labor in football intensifies


A global movement campaigning aqainst child labor on Thursday urged the organizers of the World Cup football competition set to be held in June in Japan and South Korea to make it the first international sport event free of child labor.

Organizers of the World Cup Campaign 2002, initiated by the Global March Against Child Labor, called upon soccer world governing body FIFA to ensure that no children are employed in the football-making industry, including in FIFA-licensed goods production.

In 1996, FIFA developed a set of regulations called the Code of Labor Practice, which prohibits the use of child labor, bonded or forced, and promotes fair wages for adults. These regulations apply to all companies, large and small that are involved in the production of FIFA-licensed goods.

But the campaign organizers charged that provisions on child labor and labor rights in contractual agreements between FIFA and sporting goods companies are far from fully implemented in places like India and Pakistan, and called for their full implementation before the start of the World Cup.

"FIFA, which has not given enough importance to its own code, must find a lasting solution before the forthcoming football championships," movement chairperson Kailash Satyarthi said.

India has more than 20 million child workers, according to government figures, though the International Labor Organization puts the figure at more than 131 million, the largest in the world.

In June 2000, a report published by the India Committee of the Netherlands in cooperation with the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude said that there are still at least 10,000 children working in the football-making industry in India's Punjab.

In late 1999, the All Pakistan Federation of Labor issued a report saying that although progress had been made in tackling child labor in major stitching centers, children were still working for contractors producing footballs outside the main stitching centers and abusive labor practices continue to be widespread.

Satyarthi also accused FIFA of failing to address the issue of child labor and working conditions in China, a major producer of low-cost sporting goods.

FIFA has said the fact that the football event will be held with the active participation of several humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, will ensure that the footballs and referee equipment fully conform to current labor standards. It has denied the allegation that there are no monitoring mechanisms in place.

However, Satyarthi maintained that the monitoring mechanism should extend to all the 17,000 products licensed by FIFA and not limited to products used in the World Cup.



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