New Channel 4 documentary Inside the Shein Machine uncovers horrifying working conditions and £3 an hour pay

“The factory has a very inhumane system”

Two women pose for a photo at a Shein event
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A new Channel 4 documentary, Untold: Inside The Shein Machine, has uncovered how employees are really treated behind closed doors at fast fashion giant Shein. 

In the show, you see an undercover journalist at some of Shein's factories in China. Posing as an employee, they're seen working 120+ hour weeks - despite Chinese labour laws dictating you shouldn't work more than 40 hours.

Inside The Shein Machine reveals horrific working conditions

You also see staff being drastically underpaid - most receiving around £3 pay an hour - and being given no days off.

This is the first time a journalist has managed to report from inside Shein's workplace by wearing hidden cameras. “The factory has a very inhumane system,” they share in the documentary.

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It's long been known that fast fashion is the second biggest culprit when it comes to carbon emissions, polluting the planet more than both aviation and food production.

But influencers shamelessly promoting the fast fashion brand online have led to over 6.9 billion views of the #SheinHaul hashtag on TikTok and no doubt countless sales.

They often buy upwards of 30 or 40 low-cost items at once - often dupes of pricier alternatives - and encourage their millions of followers to do the same.

“Shein has taken the fast fashion model of producing clothes and put it on steroids,” one employee shares during the expose.

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It's quickly become the fastest-growing fast fashion brand since launching, far outgrowing the likes of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing. They had previously been considered the peak of unsustainable, throwaway fashion culture.

Shein was recently valued at around £84 billion.

Since the documentary was released, Shein has defended their work culture, telling Stylist magazine that they are "extremely concerned by the allegations presented by Channel 4."

They went on: "Any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly. Failure to meet Shein standards will result in termination of partnership. We have requested specific information from Channel 4 to assist further investigation."

"Shein’s Responsible Sourcing standards hold our suppliers to a code of conduct based on International Labour Organisation conventions and local laws and regulations, including labour practices, and working conditions.”

More as we have it.

Watch Untold: Inside the Shein Machine on All 4 now.

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.