Billionaire Jack Ma again endorses extreme overtime culture as furore rages

16 Avril, 2019, 01:11 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Mr Ma's statements fuelled a discussion. Credit PA

The Alibaba Group Holding co-founder once more endorsed the sector's infamous 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week routine, known as 996, as de rigueur for passionate young workers.

"As I expected, my comments internally a few days ago about the 996 schedule caused a debate and non-stop criticism", Ma wrote.

China's tech industry is littered with tales of programmers and startup founders dying unexpectedly due to long hours and grueling stress.

"Many companies and many people don't have the opportunity to work 996", Ma continued, referring to under-performing firms.

However former and current employees of companies included on the blacklist - including Bytedance, TikTok, Huawei and e-commerce platform Pinduoduo - say such laws are regularly disregarded.

According to Chinese law, businesses can not allow their staff to work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week and overtime is restricted to 36 hours a month. Some Chinese tech workers took it to GitHub to vent their feelings by creating a new GitHub project dubbed 996.ICU, in which ICU refers to the possibility of ending up in intensive care because of their tough work schedule.

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Users uploaded screenshots of conversations in which they were asked to work late in the evening.

On Sunday, Ma attempted to clarify his remarks, noting that 996 work hours are "unsustainable" but also seeming to preach a mind-set akin to the old chestnut of, "If you love what you'll do, you'll never work a day in your life".

The debate has spread across Chinese social media, where many users have criticized the tech industry's work culture as "inhumane". "If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem", Ma said in a blog post Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo, the BBC reports. "Their real needs should be considered".

One user commented on the discussion forum Zhihu: "Most of today's companies are machines that can not stop running".

Ma's comments come after an opinion piece in Chinese state newspaper the People's Daily on Thursday argued on that 996 violate's the country's labor law.

"A load of nonsense, and didn't even mention whether the company provides overtime compensation for a 996 schedule", wrote one commenter on the Weibo post. "If you do not work longer than others to make more effort, how can you achieve the success you want", he questioned Alibaba employees.

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