More than two-thirds of the world’s soccer balls are made in one of Sialkot’s 1,000 factories, including the Adidas Al Rihla, the official ball of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which begins this month.

Approximately 60,000 people, or 8 per cent of the city’s population, work in the soccer ball manufacturing industry in Sialkot. They frequently put in long hours and sew the panels of the balls by hand.

In Sialkot, hand stitching is used in more than 80 per cent of the soccer balls produced. This time-consuming method increases the soccer ball’s durability and aerodynamic stability. Compared to stitches made by machines, the seams are deeper and the tension is higher.

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Bloomberg reports that stitchers make about Rs160 ($0.75) each ball. It takes three hours to finish each one. A stitcher can make roughly Rs9,600 per month by stitching three balls per day. The earnings are modest, even for an impoverished area. According to researcher estimates, a living wage for Sialkot is close to Rs20,000 per month.

Women make up the majority of those who sew the balls. They might sew two balls in a typical day, go home to prepare meals for their kids, and then go back to work in a nearby village in the late afternoon.

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Usually, men prepare supplies or do quality checks at various phases of the production process. The industries in Sialkot employed kids as young as 5 alongside their parents up until labour laws were passed in 1997. According to a 2016 assessment, the sector in Sialkot is threatened by the ban on child labour since it “took away a large slice of a prospective skilled generation,” creating a persistent worker shortage.

About 40 million soccer balls are purchased annually worldwide, and sales are anticipated to increase during the World Cup.