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Labour in Global Value Chains: Work Conditions in Football Manufacturing in China, India and Pakistan


  • Peter Lund-Thomsen,

    1. Associated with the Center for Corporate Social Responsibility and Center for Business and Development Studies, and associate professor in the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Porcelaenshaven 18A, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark (e-mail: His research interests focus on corporate social responsibility in developing countries, global value chains, and industrial clusters. His work has appeared in journals such as Competition and Change, Geoforum and the Journal of Business Ethics
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  • Khalid Nadvi,

    1. Senior lecturer at the School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Arthur Lewis Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK (e-mail: His widely published research on globalization focuses on the interface between local clusters and global production, global regulation and local outcomes. He leads an ESRC funded research network on Rising Powers and Global Standards and his current research project is on the rising powers, labour standards and the governance of global production networks.
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  • Anita Chan,

    1. Research professor at the China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, NSW 2007, Sydney, Australia (e-mail: She has published widely on Chinese labour issues, rural China, Chinese youth and comparative labour. She is the editor of Walmart in China (Cornell University Press, 2011) and Labour in Vietnam (ISEAS Publishing, 2011). Her current research focuses on the industrial relations of China's automobile industry and comparative labour standards for China and Vietnam's foreign-invested industries.
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  • Navjote Khara,

    1. Professor at the Centre for Business, George Brown College, 200 King Street East, Toronto, ON, M5A 3W8, Canada (e-mail: Her research interests focus on global value chains, industrial clusters and corporate social responsibility in the developing countries. She has worked on projects with UNIDO, the Copenhagen Business School and the Institute of Industrial Policy Studies, South Korea. Her work has been published in Global Networks, European Journal of International Management and Indian Journal of Marketing.
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  • Hong Xue

    1. Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, School of Social Development, East China Normal University, 500 Dongchuan Road, Minhang, Shanghai, 200241, China (e-mail: Her research interests include labour, civil society and global production networks. Her research has been published in International Labour and Working Class History, Global Networks and several academic journals in Chinese. Her chapter on the relationship between Chinese suppliers and their global buyers appeared in Wal-Mart in China edited by Anita Chan (Cornell University Press, 2011).
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The authors thank the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for funding an initial comparative study on football production in the Sialkot (Pakistan) and Jalandhar (India) clusters, and the Danish Social Sciences Research Council for financing the subsequent study of workers in football manufacturing in China, India and Pakistan. Of course, neither funding body is responsible for the findings and views presented here. The authors acknowledge inputs from participants at various workshops where drafts of this paper were presented and are grateful for the helpful comments provided by the reviewers. The authors are collectively responsible for any errors.


A critical challenge facing developing country producers is to meet international labour standards and codes of conduct in order to engage in global value chains. Evidence of gains for workers from compliance with such standards and codes remains limited and patchy. This article focuses on the global football industry, a sector dominated by leading global brands that manage dispersed global value chains. It assesses the working conditions for football stitchers engaged in different forms of work organization, factories, stitching centres and home-based settings in Pakistan, India and China. It draws on detailed qualitative primary field research with football-stitching workers and producers in these three countries. The article explains how and why work conditions of football stitchers differ across these locations through an analytical framework that interweaves both global and local production contexts that influence work conditions. In doing so, it argues that current debates on the role of labour in global value chains have to go beyond a narrow focus on labour standards and corporate social responsibility compliance and engage with economic, technological and social upgrading as factors that could generate sustained improvements in real wages and workers’ conditions.