How much more would you pay for a football to make sure it wasn’t made by child labour?

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Today’s Sydney Morning Herald published research showing children in India are stitching footballs for two of Australia’s biggest sportsball brands, Sherrin and Canterbury . For their efforts the children miss out on schooling, their eyesight is deteriorating, their backs ache and their hands are frequently cut and infected. They earn around 50-60 rupees a day, which equates to AUS$0.90-1.07.

The footballs come from suppliers who have signed ethical sourcing codes but manage to find their way around independent monitoring designed to check their compliance.

Sherrin and Canterbury have promised to investigate and take remedial action.

So what action should they take? Sherrin and Canterbury must do more than kick suppliers using child labour out of their supply chains. That will just push the problem elsewhere. The root cause of the problem is poverty – parents who cannot meet the needs of their families have little option but to co-opt their children into labour. At the end of the day Sherrin and Canterbury need to pay more. If the parents earn a sufficient wage they will no longer need their children to work.

So what would it cost? Research in 2009 suggested a living wage is around 6500-8500 rupees a month (AUS $116-152). The report defines a living wage as a wage level

which should enable the worker to provide for himself and his family not merely the basic essentials of food, clothing and shelter but a measure of frugal comfort including education for children, protection against ill health, requirements of essential social needs and a measure of insurance against more important misfortunes including old age.

This would mean increasing the wages paid to football stitchers around three to five fold. Sounds like a lot, but assuming a stitcher makes 5-7 balls a day, that’s an increase of around 30 rupees per ball, or AUS $0.50. Not such a high price to pay is it?

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