Fast fashion | Report claims 75-hour weeks 'still the norm' in Shein's supply chain despite promise to fix overwork culture

Report claims 75-hour weeks 'still the norm' in Shein's supply chain despite promise to fix overwork culture

A new report from Public Eye has suggested that fashion retailer Shein has not fixed a culture of excessive working hours in its supply chain despite promising to do so.

The report follows Public Eye’s first investigation in January 2021, which alleged workers at factories in Shein's supply chain were working over 75 hours per week.

 “The 75-hour weeks that we found out about two years ago still seem to be common at Shein,” Public Eye claims.

Having interviewed 13 people employed at factories in Guangzhou, China, the group states that workers completed 12-hour days on average, six or seven days per week.

While Shein has not officially confirmed who its suppliers are, authors Oliver Classen and David Hachfeld say Shein products were present at the factories during interviews, and it became clear they worked as a part of Shein’s supply chain during the conversation.

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“I work every day from 8 in the morning to 10.30 at night and take one day off each month. I can’t afford any more days off because it costs too much,” one worker reportedly told Public Eye.

The investigation also alleges that wage growth since its first report over three years ago, sitting well below the living wage in China.

The report includes a separate link to a full statement from Shein, which refutes some of the allegations and more broadly argues that it takes many steps to manage its supply chain responsibly, including “supporting our supplier partners in providing working conditions that meet international standards for health and safety, labour and social welfare.”

Shein says it has “established clear and transparent requirements on suppliers’ wages and working hours,” such as requirements to pay the local minimum wage, for overtime work to be compensated at the legal premium rate, a cap on working more than 60 hours per week including overtime, a guarantee of at least one day off every seven days, and the right to refuse overtime.

The retailer also claims it has taken several steps to enforce these requirements including conducting audits to identify and resolve violations, and investing in training and educating its suppliers.

Public Eye alleges while conducting interviews it witnessed child labor in the factories and younger children in the workplace rather than in childcare. Shein says has a zero-tolerance policy for child labor and is “actively reducing the already low occurrence of such violations.”

It specifies it has a zero-tolerance policy for child labor and has invested in launching and building child care centers and summer camps for the children of suppliers’ workers, and adds that the issue of child labor and insufficient child care is much broader than Shein’s own supply chain.

Shein also came under fire from a documentary aired by UK broadcaster Channel 4 in October 2022, which similarly alleged excessive working hours.

In a subsequent statement in December 2022, the company claimed an independent audit found that while most of the allegations were incorrect or overstated, workers at two suppliers were completing longer working hours than local rules permitted. It also announced a $15million investment to improve working conditions at its supply chain factories.

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