It was just last month when Chinese developers protested over the “996 work schedule” on GitHub. The “996” work culture refers to an unofficial work schedule that requires employees to work from 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week, totaling up to 60 hours of work per week.
The site, 996icu, that went viral last month, also called out to companies such as Youzan and Jingdong, who both follow the 996 work rule. One such example given was of a Jingdong PR who posted on their maimai ( Chinese business social network) account that “(Our culture is to devote ourselves with all our hearts (to achieve the business objectives)”, defending the 996 work culture.
Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, is also among the ones who believe in promoting the 12-hour, 6-day week working schedule. Ma defended the Chinese 996 tech-life on Alibaba’s WeChat account, last week, and chastised people wanting a balanced and typical eight-hour work shift.
“In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected. Let me ask everyone if you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?” Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don’t regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me”, states Ma.
Other companies to support Ma includes JD.com Inc., whose chief executive, Richard Liu, said that although he wouldn’t force people to work 996, however, people who have slacked off are not his “brothers”, reports Bloomberg.
“Many people just want to buy a car and buy a house for Mom and Dad. This is very important, but I think you should have this ideal…some things that you are willing to do can help your child to be more blessed and help you to be blessed. Isn’t it a good thing? This requires 996”, states Ma.
Jack Ma’s remarks in defense of the 996 work schedule have again ignited uproar among people who strictly disapprove of this extreme over-time work environment in Chinese tech companies. Many have pointed out how promoting “996 work culture” in the name of “devotion” and “hard work” is blatantly ignoring the consequences of such gladiatorial work environment on employees.
Unbearable pressure and unrealistic demands from employees often lead to them being depressed, over-fatigued, burned out, and in worst cases, suicidal. For instance, during February 2015, Foxconn forced its employees to work overtime, which resulted in occasional karoshi (death due to job-related exhaustion) and suicide.
Public reaction to Jack Ma’s approval of 996 work culture has been largely negative, with people condemning Ma for his utter ignorance towards the issue:
Reminds me of Elon Musk's similar comments. I'm glad I have the privilege not to work for these people.
— Dr. Donna Malayeri (@lindydonna) April 13, 2019
996 makes a certain amount of sense, for a while, if you are immortal. If you are not immortal then, just no. Find a job that respects your life.
— Tim Lewis (@limeytim) April 13, 2019
thanks for spreading the news .just escaped from this company several months ago,and have experienced the terrible 996 work schedual for at least half a year. It's so exausting, almostly leaving no time for anyting else except work, and it actually make me somewhat depressed.
— Sophie Tong (@yanni02141) April 13, 2019
The secret of Asian growth uncut. Otherwise known as exploitation.
— Roger Darashah (@RogerDara) April 14, 2019
They honestly don't care. They have 1.4bn people, so there's never going to be a shortage of employees, even if they are eventually worked into ill health.
— Big Dick's Car Wash (@designer_dick) April 15, 2019