A new Channel 4 investigation has uncovered the exploitative conditions that Shein factory employees are forced to endure
A new Channel 4 investigation has uncovered that workers supplying Shein are paid as little as 3p per garment and work shifts of around 18 hours.
In a new documentary, Untold: Inside the Shein Machine, Channel 4 uncovered that in some of the fast fashion giant’s Chinese factories, workers earn a maximum of £500 per month for producing 500 items of clothing per day.
Others do not have a basic salary, and instead get paid 0.27 yuan – 3 pence – per garment produced. It’s estimated that the retailer churns out up to 10,000 new products a day.
Shein was valued at £100 billion in April 2022, making it worth as much as Zara and H&M combined.
Employees can also have their salary slashed by two-thirds if they make a mistake. They also have no weekends – just one rest day per month. “There’s no such thing as Sundays here,” a person says in the documentary.
The retailer is infamous for its shockingly low prices and its website even has a dedicated ‘99p and under’ section. While dirt cheap products are tempting, buying from the brand only funds further exploitation of the company’s workers.
This isn’t the first time it’s come to light that Shein is exploiting its workers. Last year, a report by the Swiss advocacy group Public Eye found that a number of staff across six sites in Guangzhou were discovered to be working 75-hour weeks. Additionally, when Shein audited its suppliers in 2021, they found that 83 per cent of its 700 suppliers had a mediocre or poor performance and were in need of corrective action.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for fast fashion brands to exploit their workers. In 2020 it came to light that garment workers in Leicester, working in factories supplying Boohoo – which owns brands such as Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal – were being paid as little as £3.50 per hour.
On top of this, fast fashion is a leading driver of climate change, with the industry responsible for around 10 per cent of global emissions. Retailers like Shein are particularly culpable, as the sheer volume of their cheap, poor quality products are more likely to end up clogging up landfill sites. Most of its returns also end up in landfill, because it’s cheaper than putting them back in circulation.
Untold: Inside the Shein Machine is available to stream on All 4 from today.