Chinese retail tech giants including Alibaba and JD.com have defended enforcing brutal 12 hour shifts on their employees as outcry in the region continues to grow.
Over the past few weeks employees of China’s most prominent tech firms have taken to Microsoft’s code sharing site GitHub, where they have laid bare the demands of their employers’ “996” work schedule.
“996” refers to the standard number of hours they’re expected to stay at work, 9am to 9pm six days a week.
The discussion of such demands has prompted widespread condemnation of the companies, plus a wider debate about work-life balance in China.
A blacklist of over 150 companies who expect their employees to adhere to these hours has been created within the community, including Alibaba, JD.com, Huawei and TikTok’s creator Bytedance.
Though Chinese law states average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours per week, numerous prominent figures have defended the 996 schedule.
In response Jack Ma, founder of China’s largest retailer Alibaba, said that the 996 schedule was a “huge blessing”.
“If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day”, Ma wrote.
“Otherwise why did you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours… Let me ask everyone, if you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?
He went on to add that these hours are not enforced, but that if “you find a job you like, the 996 problem does not exist; if you’re not passionate about it, every minute of going to work is a torment.”
JD.com’s chief executive Richard Liu also defended the practice, adding that the number of slackers in his company has grown and that 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.”