One the richest men in the world, billionaire Jack Ma, 54, is receiving major criticism after endorsing the controversial culture of 12 hour workdays, 6 days a week in the Chinese tech industry. He says employees working longer hours will get the “rewards of hard work”.
Jack Ma is the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba and recently he has spoken out on social media in support of the Chinese work practice known as “996.” The numbers refer to working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is a common trend among the country’s big technology companies.
“If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem,” Ma said in a post Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo. “If you don’t like [your work], every minute is torture,” he added. Ma said he had never regretted working 12-hour days.
“I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing,” he said. “How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?”
Needless to say people are not too thrilled with the views of the tech giant. Weibo users took the opportunity to express their views as well.
“Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, or the children who need company?” wrote a Weibo user in response to Ma’s post. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children because of a lack of time, they added.
Chinese media also put companies on blast that make staff put in long hours at the office, without referencing Ma’s post directly. “Advocating hard work and commitment does not mean forcing overtime,” wrote state-run newspaper People’s Daily. “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical.”
Jack Ma stated the tone for any prospective employees of Alibaba, one of the world’s biggest tech companies. He says they should be prepared to work 12 hours a day if they want to succeed. “Or why bother joining? We don’t lack those who work eight hours comfortably,” he said.
Other high-profile figures in China’s tech industry also defend long working hours in the technology industry. Richard Liu, founder of Alibaba rival JD.com, has previously criticized employees at the company who did not work hard enough as “slackers.”
Jack Ma was famously born into a poor family and did not succeed academically. He started Alibaba using cash scraped together from friends. Ma said that he did not intend to defend the practice of working long hours, but wanted to “pay tribute” to employees who did.
“The real 996 is not simply overtime work,” he said, adding that everyone has the right to choose their own lifestyle but those who work shorter hours “won’t taste the happiness and rewards of hard work.”
A spokesperson for Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ma’s social media posts or the company’s policy on overtime.
That comment may go unanswered. Studies show that China is facing an epidemic of people dying from over working. In an article written in 2014, the statistics were at about 1600 people dying per day via “working to death”. In 2010, workers of the Foxconn factory attempted suicide in alarming numbers. Eighteen people attempted suicide, citing long and poor working conditions, with 14 of them successfully taking their own lives. Foxconn is one of China’s largest factories producing iPhone and iPad parts for Apple.