FeatureWorld News

What is China’s ‘996’ work culture? The meaning of its ban on companies

Although 996 is widely used, it runs in legal limbo since Chinese labour rules require a 40-hour workweek

The term “996” refers to the infamously harsh work culture that many young employees of some of China’s largest companies adhere to, working six days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, totaling 72 hours weekly. This work culture is widespread in many tech firms and startups.

CEOs who have admitted to it, like Alibaba Founder Jack Ma, say, “Working 996 is a huge bliss.” Major Chinese tech firms like Huawei and Bytedance have faced criticism for endorsing 996 schedules. Although 996 is widely used, it runs in legal limbo since Chinese labor rules require a 40-hour workweek. But because enforcement is lax, many businesses can disregard it. Employees in the business are frequently forced to work long hours due to competition.

work culture
Image Source: LinkedIn

Workers are frequently obliged or encouraged to work unpaid overtime as a sign of their devotion to the organization and their jobs. In response, the corporations provide amenities like sleep rooms to further persuade workers to work this schedule.

Although young individuals may easily change employment, the labor market is competitive. Due to the effects of COVID-19, businesses have also been forced to stop hiring and lay off staff, which has left the surviving employees with a greater task. Furthermore, a lot of workers are drawn to these harsh working circumstances because they provide better pay and more prospects for advancement.

As Mark Tanner from China Skinny tells Focus, “I know some of the tech firms who have already tried to reduce hours and subsequent overtime pay, [and it has] not been well received by many workers. Many will miss the extra income, but others have committed to purchases and loans based on the expected overtime.”

However, some internet users are becoming more outspoken in their outrage over the effects of these strict timetables. Following the deaths of two Pinduoduo employees earlier this year from physical and mental strain, coupled with other occurrences of a similar kind, the government authorities have taken a strong stance.

“As long as Chinese society and culture puts some emphasis on material goals that are incompatible with normal middle-class salaries and as long as the cost of living continues to rise, people will always force themselves to go the extra mile and overwork,” says Guilherme Campos, International Business Advisory Manager at Dezan Shira & Associates.

The Chinese government declared these labor hours unlawful on August 26, 2021, no longer ignoring the growing public outrage against 996. In a ruling, the Supreme People’s Court said that “adherence to the national working hour system is the legal obligation and workers deserve rights for rest and vacation.”

“The Chinese supreme court’s decision against the 996 work policy (as well as the government’s moves to protect gig workers) overwhelmingly targets technology companies, and are in response to public discontent and immense societal pressure. More policy actions can be expected as the government appears determined to regulate its sprawling private tech sector while pushing forward with the “common prosperity” movement,” Adam Livermore, Partner at Dezan Shira & Associates, explains. Moreover, with grievances rising among workers, the government also has to ensure that it can maintain domestic stability.

Evolving Labor System and Its Impact on Work Culture

Businesses have been affected by the recent crackdown on China’s working culture in both good and negative ways. First of all, it solidifies the government’s support for the labor force. Restoring strict working standards will be required of more digital firms if labor market oversight is strengthened. By drawing attention to this matter, worker overtime concerns may cause a spike in labor disputes, which may have a detrimental effect on several worker-employer interactions.

The labor system in China is evolving, which will have an immediate impact on organizational structures, employment laws, and hiring practices in businesses. Strict enforcement of the rule might put some businesses in danger of going bankrupt as it would drastically reduce their productivity, especially if other businesses discover inventive ways to get around the law to keep up their overtime policies.

You might also be interested in – “China is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country”, ICBM count to overtake US and Russia within ten years

Related Articles

Back to top button