As of 1997, the ILO, through IPEC, has worked with the Government of Pakistan, FIFA, the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), trade unions, manufacturers, UNICEF and NGOs to combat child labour in the football industry in Pakistan. Elimination of child labour in the soccer ball industry in Sialkot was launched to provide education to working children as an alternative to work.
The scheme further seeks to mobilise local communities to have ownership of the non-formal education plan and link it with the formal education system for facilitating absorption (mainstreaming) of these children into a better system.
IPEC and its partners have succeeded in educating more than 10,000 children through 255 non-formal education centres, and mainstreaming 5,800 of them into the formal education system – and IPEC monitors have found no instances of child labour at the soccer ball stitching centres since March 1999.
Today, efforts continue to remove children from the less than 5 per cent of stitching workplaces that do not participate in the monitoring programme and other branches, including the surgical industry. Thanks to the ILO-IPEC programme, most of these children removed from work attend formal schools in Sialkot, or having successfully completed their schooling, are now working under improved conditions in local factories. The district Government spends around 70 per cent of its budget on education, and has passed a resolution to make Sialkot a child labour-free zone.