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Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s remarks spark debate over China’s ‘996’ work schedule

BEIJING: Remarks by the head of Chinese online business giant Alibaba that young people should work 12-hour days, six days a week if they want financial success have prompted a public debate over work-life balance in the country.

Jack Ma is one of China’s richest men and his comments last week brought both condemnation and support as China’s more mature economy enters a period of slower growth.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma defends overtime work culture as ‘huge blessing’

The e-commerce magnate weighed into a debate about work-life balance and the overtime hours demanded by some companies as the sector slows after years of breakneck growth. In a speech to Alibaba employees, Ma defended the industry’s ‘996’ work schedule, which refers to the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week. The issue has fueled an online debate and protests.

Newspaper People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, issued an editorial, saying mandatory overtime reflects managerial arrogance and was also impractical and unfair to workers.

Online complaints included blaming long work hours for a lower birth rate in the country.

Ma has responded to the criticism by saying work should be a joy and also include time for study, reflection and self-improvement.

In a speech to Alibaba employees, Ma defended the industry’s ‘996’ work schedule, which refers to the 9 am to 9 pm workday, six days a week.

“I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing,” he said in remarks posted on the company’s WeChat account.

“Many companies and many people don’t have the opportunity to work 996,” Ma said. “If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?”

The issue has fuelled an online debate and protests on some coding platforms, where workers have swapped examples of excessive overtime demands at some companies.

Ma, a former English teacher who co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has become one of China’s richest people, said he and early employees regularly worked long hours.

“In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected,” Ma said.

News credit : Indiatimes