Jack Ma applauds "996" working scheme

Galtero Lara
Abril 16, 2019

Hong Kong - Jack Ma, billionaire and founder of Alibaba, has tried to defend the long overtime work that exists in many Chinese technology companies, including his, calling it "a huge blessing" for young people, Reuters reports.

They work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and their billionaire chief, boss Alibaba, tells them: "This is a huge blessing for you". "If you don't work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?", he posted on the company's WeChat account. Each company listed is given a number for the type of hours they tend to push, in some cases beyond the 996 work schedule.

He was responding to a debate that has emerged in recent weeks among Chinese tech workers over the 996 schedule, which means working 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

The debate about overtime working, common in China's Internet industries, went viral recently after project "996.icu" appeared on Microsoft's GitHub to protest at the "996" work schedule in many companies.

In a message to employees last week, Ma said that many workers lack the opportunity to put in extra hours at work, so those with the option should take full advantage of it.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ma's comments were met with a backlash online, where many commentators argued that overtime hours are a huge blessing for employers only.

'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, ' he said. "One should not attach the moral labels of "slackers" or "not willing to strive" to employees who are against 996".

Mr. Ma, a former English teacher who co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has become one of China's richest people, said he and early employees regularly worked long hours. Companies that try to force such practices are "foolish" and doomed to fail, he said. The comments from Ma elicited some intense reaction. "Not only is it inhumane, it's unhealthy and even more unsustainable for long periods - plus workers, relatives and the law do not approve of it", he wrote in a post on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo.

"The people who stick to 996 must have found their passion there, and their happiness besides from money". On Thursday, a Chinese newspaper published an article claiming that "996" violated the Chinese Labor Law, which states that the weekly working hours must not exceed 40 hours.

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