As Ru Paul famously sang ‘You better work’, and China’s richest man is using this line of attack to get the most from staff, who are expected to work 72 hour weeks.
Jack Ma, founder of online marketplace Alibaba, has praised the company’s brutal ‘996’ schedule that expects employees to work 12-hour shifts from 9am to 9pm six days a week.
While many may baulk at the idea of spending 72 hours out of a possible 168 in a week at the workplace, Ma has called the ‘996’ a ‘huge blessing’ for workers, the MailOnline reports.
He posted the shocking comments in the company’s WeChat account:
I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing.
Many companies and many people don’t have the opportunity to work 996. If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?
The comments have started an online debate and protests towards working conditions on some coding platforms, where some employees have shared examples of excessive demands from employers.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999, and has taken a Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ approach to explain how when he were a lad, he regularly worked long hours.
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.
Activists this month launched a project titled ‘996.ICU’ on Microsoft’s development platform, GitHub, where tech workers have listed Alibaba among companies with the worst working conditions.
An opinion piece by an unnamed employee in the People’s Daily, a state newspaper, argued ‘996’ violates China’s Labour Law that stipulates average work hours should not exceed 40 hours a week.
The article stated:
Creating a corporate culture of ‘encouraged overtime’ will not only not help a business’ core competitiveness, it might inhibit and damage a company’s ability to innovate.
And that’s not even touching on what awful effects these hours could have on the well-being of the human beings doing the work.
The Mental Health Foundation report mental health related stress in the UK costs 10.4 million working days per year.
How employees are expected to have any kind of work-life balance in a 72-hour work week is a concern and a mystery.
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.