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Probe reveals persistent labour issues at Shein, despite promises of improvement

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Shein factory Credits: Courtesy of Shein

Despite Shein's public assurances to improve working conditions in its supplier factories following the exposure of poor labour practices over two years ago, a recent follow-up investigation reveals that 75-hour work weeks remain commonplace in southern China.

Data from Swiss-based watchdog Public Eye, who interviewed employees in Guangzhou, where Shein manufactures many of its products, highlight the stark contradiction between the brand's sustainability rhetoric and the harsh reality faced by workers. The persistent overtime, often exceeding legal limits and the company's own code of conduct, underscores ongoing challenges within the ultra-fast fashion industry.

Since the initial scandal, Shein has invested heavily in reputation management, including reports of factory audits aimed at ensuring fair wages for workers. However, Public Eye’s report shows discrepancies have emerged regarding the validity of these audits, with quotes disappearing from Shein's website and conflicting statements from auditing firms. Furthermore, the intricate network of companies within Shein's organizational structure, coupled with opaque financial operations and the departure of its founder from the board, raise concerns about transparency and corporate governance, particularly in light of the company's planned IPO.

The lack of transparency and ongoing labour issues within Shein's supply chain pose challenges not only for potential investors but also for policymakers seeking to regulate the fast fashion industry. While some parliamentary initiatives aim to address these issues, effective regulation remains a distant goal.

For more information visit www.publiceye.ch.

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