Monday, 20 May 2024

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China fast retailer Shein suppliers work 75-hour weeks, report claims

How China's Shein became more valuable than H&M and Zara combined

Workers make clothes at a garment factory that supplies SHEIN, a cross-border fast fashion e-commerce company in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong province on July 18, 2022. 

Jade Gao | Afp | Getty Images

As fast-fashion giant Shein prepares for an IPO in the U.S., a new report suggests that workers at some of its suppliers are still clocking 75 hour weeks, despite assurances the company would tighten its labor standards. 

The report, published Tuesday, details a follow-up investigation by Swiss advocacy group Public Eye after it found in 2021 that staff members across sites in Guangzhou, China, were subject to excessive overtime and poor labor conditions. 

Following negative press in the wake of the previous report, Shein promised to improve its standards. However, a new survey by Public Eye, which polled 13 workers across six suppliers in China, has found little progress. 

“Illegal working hours and piecework wages remain a typical feature of the everyday lives of the workers interviewed,” the group said. The interviews were conducted late last summer.   

In response to CNBC, Shein claimed: “We do not recognise many of the allegations in this report.”

Public Eye said the respondents worked an average of six or seven days a week for 12 hours a day, not including lunch and dinner breaks — a violation of Shein’s supplier code of conduct.

“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,” Public Eye cited one worker as saying.

Shein’s response 

A Shein spokesperson told CNBC that the company was investing tens of millions of dollars in strengthening governance and compliance in its supply chain.

“[T]he discussion on working hours and wages raised by Public Eye is important to us, and we have made significant progress on enhancing conditions across our ecosystem.”  

The spokesperson also noted that Public Eye’s report had been based on a small sample size of interviews across six facilities, while Shein’s supply chain relies on thousands of third-party suppliers and contract manufacturers in China.

Shein is winning over American consumers but not the National Retail Federation

Shein’s statement also pointed CNBC to results from its second wage investigation which concluded in June last year. According to the company, thousands of third-party audits of its suppliers had found low rates of wage violations and showed workers were earning over two times above their local minimum wage on average and 50% more than the living wage…

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