Long Hours Persist at Shein’s Supply Chains Despite Promises of Reform

Shein by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images
Shein’s supply chain workers, aged between 23 and 60, reported average workdays stretching 12 hours with minimal breaks, often extending their workweek to six or seven days; a new investigation by Swiss advocacy group Public Eye has followed up on its 2021 report.
Workers at some suppliers of Shein, the Chinese fast-fashion behemoth, continue to endure grueling 75-hour workweeks, according to a recent investigation by the Swiss advocacy group Public Eye. This finding echoes concerns from a 2021 report, which highlighted excessive overtime at several sites in Guangzhou.


Latest Report by Public Eye

Public Eye’s latest probe involved interviews with 13 employees from six factories in China that supply Shein. These workers, aged between 23 and 60, reported average workdays stretching 12 hours with minimal breaks, often extending their workweek to six or seven days. Despite Shein’s code of conduct stipulating a maximum 60-hour workweek, including overtime, the ground reality appears starkly different.
The spotlight on Shein has grown particularly intense since its exponential growth post-2008, with the brand becoming a major player globally thanks to aggressive marketing on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The company, which thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic, relies on a vast network of third-party suppliers and contract manufacturers near its Guangzhou headquarters. This model allows Shein to rapidly produce and turn around new items within weeks.
However, this efficiency comes at a cost to its workforce. One veteran employee of 20 years shared with Public Eye, “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 revisited the investigation sites west of Nancun Village in the Guangzhou area but avoided Nancun itself due to safety concerns spurred by media scrutiny from earlier reports. Workers also revealed their wages have barely shifted since the initial investigation, fluctuating between 6,000 to 10,000 yuan per month (£663 to £1,104), with a basic wage, after accounting for overtime, of just 2,400 yuan (£265). This is below the Asia Floor Wage Alliance’s living wage benchmark of 6,512 yuan (£719).
Additionally, workers face punitive measures for mistakes, as one 50-year-old supervisor explained, “Whoever makes the mistake is responsible for putting it right. You have to fix the problem in your own working time.”
In response to these findings, Shein acknowledged the ongoing issue of long working hours, which it described as a “common challenge” in the sector. The company stated, “This is not a problem unique to Shein,” but affirmed its commitment to improving conditions within its supply chain.
As Public Eye continues to highlight these issues, the question remains whether Shein will take substantive steps to ensure its rapid growth does not come at the expense of worker welfare and rights.

Lead image courtesy of Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images