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New investigation finds Shein factory employees work 18-hour shifts

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Shein

A new investigation into fast fashion brand Shein has found that its factory workers supplying its garments are paid as little as three pence, while working shifts of around 18 hours.

A new documentary by Channel 4, ‘Untold: Inside the Shein Machine’, has revealed the conditions garment workers are facing in some of the Chinese factories that are a part of the e-tailer’s supply chain.

In a hidden camera investigation it was found that workers were earning a maximum of 500 pounds per month to produce 500 items of clothing per day.

Meanwhile, others were not receiving a basic salary, and were getting paid 0.27 yuan (three pence) per garment produced.

The company infamously spurts out hundreds of new styles a day, making clothes that sometimes sell for a little over one pound.

It has particularly become popular among a younger generation of consumers, who are drawn to the site for its affordable, on-trend looks.

In the 47 minute programme, which streamed today on the UK television channel, workers at the factory can be heard talking about the lacklustre conditions, with one stating: “There’s no such thing as Sundays here.”

Speaking to the i newspaper, the documentary’s presenter, Imran Amrain, said: “It’s a scramble to the bottom. If somebody cuts a little bit more off the prior the cost to make something, they are beating you.

“Every one of them is competing with each other, regardless of where their factories are or where their business is based.”

Shock report comes amid attempts to turn perceptions around

Earlier this year, it emerged that Shein had been looking to raise a one billion dollar at a valuation of 100 billion dollars, according to a report by Bloomberg.

However, with questions around its ESG procedures mounting, it may be more and more unlikely that this quest will not succeed.

In a bid to turn perceptions around, the company unveiled a series of environmental commitments through which it claimed it would be aiming to reduce GHG emissions across its entire value chain by 25 percent by 2030.

While its methods to achieve such a target remained fairly unclear, it outlined a number of energy-saving steps it would be taking to tackle its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, including working alongside partners on the development of carbon reduction plans.

Despite its attempts to turn its image round, Shein does seem to be aware of its suppliers’ failings.

In 2021, an audit on its 700 suppliers revealed that 83 percent had mediocre or poor performance, and were therefore in need of corrective action.

Responding to the latest documentary, a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to City A.M.: “We are extremely concerned by the claims presented by Channel 4, which would violate the code of conduct agreed to by every Shein supplier.

“Any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly, and we will terminate partnerships that do not meet our standards.

“We have requested specific information from Channel 4 so that we can investigate.”

Fast fashion