Over 80% of the world’s high-quality hand-stitched footballs begin with the home-based work of female villagers in Pakistan’s Sialkot region.
These women belong to one of the most vulnerable groups in the global economy. Working from home and poorly paid, they experience conditions familiar to those in precarious jobs in developing and developed countries alike.
They are paid by the piece rather than earning a wage. They lack job contracts, social security and guarantees of work. And they must deal with intermediary subcontractors rather than their “real” employers.
However, the best course of action is not to outlaw this work. Rather it’s to regulate it and provide institutional support for their collective organisation.
This is because, when viewed in the context of their family and social networks rather than in an individualistic framework, the chance to earn even a low cash income has improved village women’s economic, social and psychological well-being.