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China’s high court has deemed the grueling 72-hour workweek illegal

China deems long working hours illegal

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    A recent ruling by China’s highest court has signaled the end of the harsh work culture in the country. 

    Against the law: The Supreme People’s Court and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security both announced in a statement on Friday that it is illegal to force employees to work 12 hours a day for six days a week, a practice known as the “996,” Fortune reported. 

    • Common in tech, logistics and other related industries, the practice has reportedly resulted in several workers’ deaths in recent years.
    • The memo reminded employers to follow the national regime for working hours as overtime can “easily lead to labor disputes, impact the worker-employer relationship and social stability.”
    • The court stated, “Legally, workers have the right to corresponding compensation and rest times or holidays.”

    Multiple samples of abuse: The joint memo highlighted 10 court cases that the court reviewed involving various infractions such as forcing employees to work long hours, denying overtime benefits and others, reported NPR

    • One of the cited cases featured a male employee who died of a heart attack after working about 300 hours or more each month. The court asked the company to pay compensation to the victim’s family.
    • Another case highlighted a tech firm forcing employees to sign agreements that do away with overtime pay.
    • Just this year, the death of a young woman working long shifts for a Chinese e-commerce startup became the subject of criticisms and protests online.

    Supporters of 996: Despite widespread condemnation for the punishing work schedule and its threat to workers’ physical and mental health, 996 has some ardent supporters in Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma and JD.com head Richard Liu. 

    • In a 2019 post on Weibo, Ma infamously called 996 a “huge blessing,” NextShark previously reported. 
    • “If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day,” he reportedly said. “Otherwise, why even bother joining?”
    • While the court acknowledged the need for Chinese companies to maximize profits and cut costs, the recent memo cautioned about the harm a grueling work schedule can do to employees.
    • To cope with long hours and other societal pressures, some young Chinese workers have popularized a trend called “tang ping,” which involves lying flat on your back as a means to reject the “rat race” and embrace different life choices. 

    Featured Image via MarkoLovric

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