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The overtime culture of Chinese technology companies affects the debate



"I do not defend 996 (working time), but pay my respect for hard workers!" Jack Ma, founder of China's Internet behemoth Alibaba, said Friday on his Weibo in a debate initiated by software developers about the country's demanding working hours.

"996 works, ICU waiting"

What is "996"? The term refers to an unofficial but popular work plan on China's internet companies (9:00 to 9:00, six days a week). It usually leads to about 70 working hours a week, although the Chinese labor law states that weekly limits do not exceed 48 hours and overtime requires extra pay.

However, most 996 schedules do not come with extra pay. To circumvent the law, most companies take 996 as an "unspoken rule" without noting it in the contract.

There have undoubtedly been employee complaints, but the 996.ICU site brought the issue into focus at the end of March. The domain pokes fun on the 996 chart that dominates a programmer's life, causing one to work as much as ending up in an intensive care unit (ICU). At the bottom of the website a slogan reads: Developer's life matters.

Later, a project called 996.ICU soon followed on GitHub, a popular code and tool sharing site. Chinese programmers flocked to the project and sent a blacklist of tech companies complying with 996 and also a white list for reasonable working hours. A large number of Chinese tech giants are on the blacklist, including Huawei and Alibaba, who are famous for high pay and pressure.

The project soon became globally attentive. Python creator Guido van Rossum tweeted, "The 996 work plan is inhumane." And he also wrote in the thread: "Can we do anything for 996 programmers in China?"

Screenshot from discuss.python.org

Screenshot from discuss.python.org

No pain, no gain? Internet tycoons feedback

With the discussion of overtime that went beyond the programming community, China's technological tycoons soon entered the debate and tried to defend the culture of hard work.

Richard Liu, founder of China's e-commerce giant JD. com, said "slackers" in his company is not his "brothers" and he can personally work 8116, which means kl. 8 to 8 pm 11, six days a week, according to his comments posted on his personal WeChat feed on Friday. 19659004] JD will "never force" employees to work 995 or 996, but every employee must have "the spirit to fight for work," he said in the comments.

"No company should and can force employees to work on the 996 schedule … but young people should be aware that happiness comes from hard work," said Ma on Friday after Thursday's speech in a Weibo post and evokes ca. 35,000 comments of press time, most of which are critical.

These comments were soon hit by setbacks, this time not only by programmers.

In response to Ma's posts, Weibo's @ Lec16_Wei noted that most overtime results were collected by business owners instead of employees.

Weibo user @ YubeimingBen argued that young people should work hard, but it is their right to choose in which way.

Even Chinese media weighed in. "Creating a corporate culture of" encouraged overtime "will not only help a company's core competitiveness, it can hamper and damage a company's ability to innovate," a People & # 39; s Daily statement said on Thursday.

Overtime is associated with poor health, both physical and mental. Compared to people who work about 35 to 40 hours a week, those who work for more than 55 hours per week, with an increased risk of cardiac bladder and heart disease, reported in January, referring to a study by the Lancet Medical Journal.

Working long hours are also associated with depression and anxiety that can interfere with sleep and worse, the report says and cites a national health study from 2017 showing about 20 percent of adults in China who worked more than 51 hours a week reported feelings of anxiety.

China is not the only Asian country facing long working hours. Japan, which even has a word for "death by overtime", karoshi, reforms the workplace this year by placing the first ever legal cap on overtime hours. Last year, South Korea reduced its working week to 52 hours from the previous 68 hours.


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