Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has no interest in working with “lazy” people.
In a Weibo post on Friday, the Alibaba chairman made it perfectly clear that his company only welcomes workers who are willing to clock in 12 hours a day, six days a week — a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. shift colloquially known as “996.”
The business magnate’s comments come amidst an ongoing protest against such practices in China’s tech industry, which has allegedly killed a number of startup founders and programmers.
The discussion reportedly started on Github under the topic “996.ICU,” which warns workers that following the schedule leads to health problems grave enough to warrant admission in the intensive care unit.
However, Ma, who was rejected from 30 jobs — including KFC — before co-founding Alibaba, endorsed the culture and even described it as “a huge blessing.”
According to the post, he reportedly told his employees in an internal meeting that, “To be able to work 996 is a huge blessing,”
“If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day. Otherwise, why even bother joining?”
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Ma, who co-founded the company with 17 other people, added that he and early employees regularly worked long hours. He emphasized the importance of hard work in achieving success.
“In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected,” the 54-year-old billionaire said. “Let me ask everyone then, if you don’t put out more time and energy than the rest, how can you achieve the success you want?”
Ma’s comments immediately drew mixed reactions, many of which criticized its ignorance of the law. Under China’s Labor Law, employees must not exceed 44 work hours a week, and they are entitled to overtime pay.
Weibo users commented:
“I hope people would stick to the law and not their own opinions.”
“I am not actually against 996, but I am against free overtime work.”
“Jack Ma likes 996 because the money for overtime is in his pockets.”
“Ma has too much influence. The biggest danger of this post is that countless bosses will quote it as an argument to their own employees.”
“This is just sad. 996 it’s not a blessing, it’s just another working mechanism. It’s true that many follow the schedule or even work more hours, but for the majority of society, this is not achievable. It’s okay to support the practice from a business perspective, but a family’s point of view, it increases household costs. Children, the elderly and the maintenance of family ties all require time and space.”
According to CGTN, the billionaire’s remarks also caught the attention of state-owned People’s Daily, which argued that such practice might do more harm than good:
“Creating a corporate culture of ‘encouraged overtime’ will not only not help a business’ core competitiveness, it might inhibit and damage a company’s ability to innovate.”
The outlet also wrote in a Weibo post on Friday (via China News):
“Is it worth it that the value of success comes at the expense of health? Is there a better way to improve efficiency? It is necessary for companies to obey the legal bottom line and reaffirm labor rights.”
Such culture of overworking extends from China to other neighboring East Asian countries. In Japan, death by overwork — a nationwide problem referred to as “karoshi” — has reportedly claimed thousands of lives in recent years.
And just last year, South Korea — where many employees attend customary drinking sessions after work — had to reduce its working hours from 68 to 52 a week.
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