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State media calls for an end to “996” extreme overtime as public debate churns

Written by Luna Lin Published on 

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Tech gurus like Jack Ma disagree.

China’s state news agency has weighed in on the country’s grueling 996 work schedule, calling for a “bow out” for the tech sector’s extreme overtime hours.

“It’s apparent that 996 working schedule is a violation of the labor law,” read commentary published on Monday by Xinhua under the byline of Xin Shiping. Opinion pieces published under Xin Shiping often reflect the views of Xinhua‘s editorial board.

While acknowledging the need for a “spirit of struggle” in today’s China, Xin Shiping said the 996 working schedule is hurting diligent workers by “overdrawing” from their health and future.

“996” refers to the schedule of working from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., six days a week. The long working hours of Chinese tech companies have made global headlines after a GitHub project called “996.icu” surfaced as an online protest campaign among Chinese coders.

Chinese labor law sets the weekly working hours at 40 hours, with a maximum of 36 hours of overtime, but the law’s enforcement, when it comes to Chinese tech companies is weak, as they rarely get caught.

Xinhua‘s criticism of 996 came after the country’s most influential tech gurus endorsed the long working hours.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma told his employees last week that 996 was a “blessing” for them, because it was behind the success of big tech firms such as Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

“If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why would you come to Alibaba? We do not need those who comfortably work eight hours,” Ma said.

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