Recent rulings by China’s top courts and labour ministry have signalled a willingness to end the widely used practice of ‘996’ work-culture in some major tech companies in China.
996, which was famously described as a ‘blessing’ by China’s leading entrepreneur Jack Ma, is the culture of working 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days per week. Whilst it is loved by many Chinese businesses, it is a practice that is often hated by their employees, who feel compelled to follow the grueling work schedule for fear of losing their job or promotion opportunities.
At the end of August, a ruling was made on 10 cases brought concerning labour disputes, mostly related to overtime working, the outcome of these cases were all found in favour of the employees.
The notice that was released following these decisions stated, “Legally, workers have the right to corresponding compensation and rest times or holidays. Complying with national working hours is the obligation of employers”
Whilst this latest news isn’t expected to end the 996 culture overnight, it does appear to show there is some willingness to curb the excessive overtime culture that pervades inside many Chinese tech companies.
Earlier this year two employees at the e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo sadly died, one of who committed suicide whilst the other collapsed on the way home after working long hours.
Whilst it is unclear if these two deaths are connected to their working schedule, it has led to a lot of discussion on social media in China concerning the pressure on people to work such long hours.
These stories have helped strengthen public opinion against this working culture, and with the desire for businesses to provide support for employees who are seeking a better work/life balance and more time with their families.
Whilst some people online remain skeptical if things will start to change, others believe that with the recent spotlight on China’s big-tech companies from Beijing, these businesses will feel the pressure to provide a better working environment for their staff.
Smartphone manufacturer Vivo has recently made such a move, by ending their practice of alternating five and six-day working weeks and have given all employees a 2-day weekend as standard. Vivo said in an online post, "From now on, we are people who will have full weekends! Let's work towards creating a happy and progressive environment for our workers."
It is hoped that the end of this culture will also support the government’s other recent priority – for better quality family life, and the government's desire for larger families with the recent three-child policy announcement.