FES-LibraryNet-SourcePress ReleasesHelpImpressum

On the Topic

"100 % child labour free"

This advertising slogan promoting footballs made entirely without relying on child labour has been used to address - mostly young - consumers since the 1998 FIFA Football World Cup, underscoring the fact that the issues of work, working conditions, and child labour prevalent in the Third World have become topical in our society, as well.
Let us hope that working conditions will also be made an issue at the 2006 Fifa Football World Cup held in Germany and that fair play is not only demanded for the matches themselves but also for the workers in the Third World.

Football is an excellent example for how young football fans can be made sensitive to questions of globalization, exploitation in the Third World, and the infringement of human rights of their peers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They may learn that in Pakistan, for instance, children and teenagers spend some three hours' hard work sewing together a football and are paid 40 to 80 Euro cents, while a "fair trade" football earns them up to 2 Euros. In several studies and reports, the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) has established that manifold forms of forced labour, though long banned internationally, are still all too common in the Third World - and that forced labour is returning to Europe. Not only are high-profile cases of forced prostitution increasingly noted in Europe, but also exploitative and extortionate methods when it comes to employing illegal immigrants, e.g. in the building industry or in agriculture. According to ILO estimates, some 12 million people worldwide have to work in conditions marked by force - from the threat of violence to the exploitation of someone's plight. In the Third World, the victims of these practices mostly are the urban poor, the rural population - and children.

Fresh supplies for the rummage tables
are sewn in countries such as Bangladesh (DIE ZEIT German weekly newspaper, 2/2003). "... The women go to work. They walk through mud and filth, out of the slums past the lorries and taxicabs and buses and mopeds and policemen in respirator masks. There are not dozens of them, not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands. The streets are full of these women from the slums, but only for a few minutes, then they disappear in black staircases, behind doors with iron fittings, behind mouldy walls. This is where they spend the day, round-shouldered and bent over sewing machines. Sometimes they work ten hours in a row, sometimes twelve, sometimes nineteen, and sometimes they are beaten. At the end of an ordinary day, they have sewn 300 sleeves or 300 collars or 300 button tapes onto 300 shirts and have earned one Dollar, or sometimes 1.20 Dollars, or sometimes nothing at all, because sometimes their wages are not paid out.
A few ordinary weeks later, the shirts or the trousers or the jackets or the T-shirts are on display in the shopping malls of Cambridge or Chicago, of Houston or Hanau. They cost as much as one seamstress earns in a month, or in two months, and their labels proudly display brand names such as Nike (annual earnings: 590mn). Or adidas (208mn) or Tommy Hilfiger (131mn) or Levi's (151mn), or whatever the corporation's name may be.
That could be the end of this tale. It would be a short, sad tale on exploitation and on how globalization makes some get rich and makes others stay poor. ..."

An increasing public debate on the unsuitable or sometimes even degrading and inhumane working conditions prevailing especially in Third World countries has supported the efforts made by the International Labour Organization (ILO), international trade union organizations and many non-governmental organizations and their initiatives to improve these working conditions. The adoption of the "International Pact on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights" by the United Nations in 1966 and the 1998 "Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights At Work" by the International Labour Organization have led to the core labour standards becoming part and parcel of the universally valid human rights - a ban on the worst kinds of child labour, a ban on forced labour, workers' freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and a ban on discrimination at the workplace.

"In the past few years, the conditions under which people work and produce in developing countries have increasingly become a focal point of public interest. Nowadays, there is an international discussion on the social dimension of globalization. The core labour standards adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) serve as the yardstick for a humane design of the world that people work in. ...
The German federal government sets particularly great store by the implementation of internationally valid social standards since it considers them an integral part of social human rights, against which all countries - and companies - must be benchmarked. Our objective is to make a contribution to both global economic development and humane working conditions in the developing countries. ..." (Heidemarie Wieczoreck-Zeul, Federal Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development, December 2004)

Rainer Gries
Deputy Manager of the
Friedrich Ebert Foundation Library

Work and Working in the Third World

Kitwe/Zambia: Steelworks
Source: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Rainer Gries