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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 12:36 GMT
Pakistan signs child labour deal
Child labour in Pakistan
Child labour is a "national problem" in Pakistan
By Kate Clark in Islamabad

Pakistan has signed an agreement aimed at reducing child labour in the manufacture of footballs.

It was signed between the International Labour Organisation and the Sialkot chamber of commerce.

Sialkot, which is near the capital Islamabad, is one of the country's largest industrial areas.

The soccer ball industry has been the focus of a global campaign for better conditions for workers.

Successful programme

The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and the International Labour Organisation have been working together for four years.

Their aim is to eliminate employment of children under the age of 14 in the industry and provide them with education and other opportunities.

Two government ministers were at the ceremony to witness the signing of a new consolidation phase in the project.

The campaign has already been highly successful.

Independent figures confirm a reduction in the use of child workers of over 75%.

The president of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce said they had pushed through with the programme, even though it meant their costs had risen by a third.

He said they had already lost business to companies still employing children in China and India.

Concerns

Part of the reason for the ceremony was to remind international buyers and consumers that cutting out child labour inevitably raised prices.

There are still some concerns about Sialkot from anti-child labour activists.

The charity, Save the Children UK, said they were worried that poor families still needed income from their children.

Alternative work in unregulated industries is more dangerous - that includes domestic service for girls and working in the leather and surgical instruments industry for boys.

And in some ways, Sialkot is a showcase industrial area for Pakistan, close to the seat of government and producing goods mainly for export.

Child labour, the activists say, remains a national problem.

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See also:

08 Sep 99 | South Asia
Pakistan wants action on child labour
14 Jan 99 | South Asia
Child labour carpet deal signed
14 Jan 99 | S/W Asia
Football child labour lives on
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