China’s biggest tech bosses have spoken out in favour of excessive overtime in the Chinese workplace after netizens started shaming companies online. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has called China’s so-called “996 system” — which refers to the unofficial requirement for employees to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week — as a blessing. JD.com boss Richard Liu then backed Ma’s sentiment, claiming that the e-commerce company will be left behind if “slackers” are not dealt with.
The debate was first mounted last month when a group of developers started a project called 996.icu on code-sharing platform Github. The name of the thread, which was initially started as a joke, refers to comments of a Chinese programmer who said the 996 system could end up with workers in the Intensive Care Unit.
As the thread gained more traction, former and current employees of some of China’s biggest tech companies began to name and shame those who push excessive working hours. Each company was given a number to reflect their policy, with Alibaba-affiliated Any Financial scoring 9106 (9am to 10pm, six days a week).
According to Chinese labour laws, employees should work no more than 40 hours a week, with overtime restricted to 36 hours a month. However, some employees report being forced into more than 100 hours of overtime a month, much, if not all, of which is unpaid.
In response to the debate that has been sparked on Chinese social media, Jack Ma said workers should consider the 996 culture an honour, not a burden. “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day,” he said on Alibaba’s WeChat account on Friday. “Otherwise why did you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work eight hours.”
Richard Liu also chirped up in defense of the practice, recalling how in the company’s early days he would wake himself up every two hours throughout the night to ensure 24-hour customer service. He said the firm, which has just announced a series of layoffs, is now full of “slackers”. “If this carries on, JD will have no hope and the company will be heartlessly kicked out of the market! Slackers are not my brothers,” he said.
However, Chinese state media has spoken out in defense of workers’ rights, with an editorial in the People’s Daily saying, “Employees who object to 996 cannot be labelled as ‘slackers’ or ‘not fighters’. Their real needs should be considered.”
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Keywords: overtime in China excessive overtime in the Chinese workplace
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Let's work hard and make lots of money and pass our delinquent rich kids off on foreigners at international schools to raise for us, send them to the west to set up trusts accounts through Hong Kong and get all the money we can before the whole system crashes. In the case of Ma and the Wanda Plaza king, pay off the politicians so you have no competitor and have an easy billionaire life in a monopoly with no competition, Amazon just left and gave up getting a piece of the monopoly, and while you have the monopoly claim how lazy people are and how unfair it is that you can't steal robot technology and never have to deal with deplorable ungrateful workers. HYPOCRISY ANYBODY.
Apr 24, 2019 07:46 Report Abuse
I find it disturbing that so many Chinese people love Jack Ma considering he seems a bit cold-hearted towards his workers. He seems to just care about making money and not about work-life balance. How many people on their deathbeds wish they had worked more hours when they were younger? What do they workers gain by pushing themselves to early deaths and weaker relationships with their spouses and kids?
Apr 23, 2019 14:46 Report Abuse