Shein’s primary method of keeping their prices low? Paying their workers criminally low wages. Swiss NGO Public Eye released a tell-all on Shein’s unethical labor practices in 2021 after interviewing workers in several of Shein’s factories. While the labor practices differed per factory, there were some common themes. They said that they were paid not per hour, but per clothing piece. Since their payment can fluctuate greatly depending on the amount of clothing they produce, people often work 75 hours a week, instead of the standard 40. Not only is this unethical, but it also violates Chinese labor laws, which also mandate a 40-hour work week. They also only have one day off each month and no employee benefits.
A year after Public Eye released their study, Bloomberg released their own findings. A test of Shein’s cotton revealed that it was sourced from China’s Xinjiang region, which is where the Chinese government is strongly suspected to be forcing labor from the Uyghurs, China’s Muslim population. Shein’s head of strategy, Peter Pernot-Day, told CNBC that, while some of their cotton is from Xinjiang, the company aims to eliminate imports from that region. Whether or not this will actually happen remains to be seen.