‘Worker Lives Matter’ campaign challenges grueling ‘996’ corporate culture in China

996 culture

Disgruntled employees who’ve had enough of China’s hellish “996” culture are protesting against excessive work hours with a campaign called “Worker Lives Matter.”

No more: In order to combat 996, which stand for working from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. six days a week, anonymous Chinese office workers created and shared a spreadsheet called “WorkingTime” that allowed professionals to record their daily hours, number of workdays, job descriptions and lunch breaks, according to Bloomberg.

  • The goal of the spreadsheet was to promote transparency and workers’ rights and to bring attention to the backbreaking labor that is demanded from them. 
  • The spreadsheet went viral with over 10 million views, and it received thousands of entries — some of which belonged to employees of tech giant companies who support 996, South China Morning Post reported.
  • “Overtime is prevalent among domestic companies and there is no supervision at all, especially among internet companies,” a WorkingTime founder wrote on GitHub. “We hope to make some contributions toward boycotting 996 and popularizing 955,” which is working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week.

Social movements: Despite China’s Supreme People’s Court and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security ruling 996 as illegal in August, companies continued to demand the grueling work schedule, which is killing their employees. Numerous reports of deaths from overwork-induced heart attacks, suicides and hospitalizations led the high court to make its decision.

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  • 996 is championed by business leaders like Alibaba Founder Jack Ma and JD.com Inc. CEO Richard Liu, with the former allegedly stating, “To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss.”
  • Younger Chinese people, on the other hand, continue to resist the culture by popularizing a spiritual movement called “tang ping,” which means lying on your back and not being caught up in the “rat race” to enjoy a healthier work-life balance.
  • Some internet companies like ByteDance and Kuaishou Technology are responding to growing frustrations by scaling back work hours, but many in the workforce don’t have high hopes of larger-scale change.
  • “We all know that 996 is wrong,” a spreadsheet founder wrote. “But it’s still there. Even the grand 996.icu movement from a few years ago hasn’t changed the situation much.”

Featured Image via Bloomberg

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