Advocacy group reveals workers at Shein suppliers work 75-hour weeks

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2021-11-17 13:23:55 – China

A Swiss advocacy group has found that suppliers for Chinese fast-fashion giant, Shein, have been discovered to work 75-hour weeks.

Six production sites in Guangzhou were discovered to have excessive hours, with personnel under immense pressure to finish orders, according to Public Eye, a sustainability-oriented, politically and religiously autonomous solidarity development NGO established in Switzerland.

Shein answered that it takes supply chain issues seriously and will investigate the report, but external audits are more often than not what raises concerns.

Ten employees from 6 different locations informed Public Eye that they worked three daily shifts with only one day off per month. This could indicate that workers are paid by the finished item rather than by the hour.

According to the BBC, such hours are common in Chinese industrial hubs, despite the fact that they violate local labor laws, which stipulate an eight-hour maximum working day and a 40-hour workweek.

Shein said that when they learned about the report, they immediately requested a copy, and once they obtain and examine it, they will launch an investigation. They have a comprehensive supplier Code of Conduct in place, which includes strict health and safety rules and is compliant with local laws. If there is non-compliance identified, they will take immediate action. 

From design to implementation, an item takes 7 days to complete.

Last year, Public Eye initiated an investigation into Shein, which works with thousands of suppliers, in order to learn more about the fashion giant's operations. Every day, the company releases 6,000 new things, with the average item costing just 7,90 pounds. The company claims to be able to turn around its rapid fashion collections in just seven days, from design to packing.

Victoria Bellandini, senior fashion lecturer at the University of Lincoln told the BBC that you cannot find garments so inexpensive that are created in fair working circumstances until we actually know where our clothes are coming from, we can't source these problems. Big brands claim to vet their suppliers, but because so much of this is outsourced to lower-cost facilities, there is a pervasive lack of transparency in the business. The fashion sector is evolving to some extent at the top end, but this is not the case for lower-cost clothing brands.

According to the BBC, the 16 million square foot Shein warehouse on the outskirts of Guangzhou, where the company sends its clothing, was seen by Public Eye. Approximately a dozen individuals who were interviewed stated they worked similar, excessive hours.

According to Public Eye, Shein is a newcomer to the large fast fashion pool and does not publish any revenue statistics. According to a Chinese estimate from December 2020, the country's revenue for the year totaled over USD 10 billion. According to Public Eye, a prominent Chinese roker expects sales of USD 20 billion in 2021. Shein's website gives minimal information about the company, describing it as "an international B2C rapid fashion e-commerce company."

Its primary markets include "Europe, America, Australia, and the Middle East, as well as other consumer markets," according to the company, which claims to be present in "over 150 countries and territories." It doesn't say where the garments come from or who distributes them. Only the parent company's address is listed in the Swiss website's imprint – it's named Zoetop Business and is based in Hong Kong.

Public Eye reports that with a large selection of unapologetically inexpensive clothing and an aggressive social media presence, online clothing shop Shein is catching up with industry giants like H&M and Zara in the contest for young women's money and attention. Despite the brand's dazzling web presence, the company behind it remains a mystery.

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