Alibaba founder Jack Ma endorses 12 hour-days, 6 day-week mantra amid 'overtime' controversy
"996" refers to working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week and is said to be common schedule among the country's big technology companies and start-ups.
Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Ali Baba, drew flak for endorsing the controversial 12-hour workday culture saying that the employees who worked longer hours would get "rewards of their hard work."
According to CNN, Ma on social media spoke in support of the Chinese work practice known as "996," which refers to working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week and is said to be common among the country's big technology companies and start-ups.
In a speech to his employees on April 12, Ma backed the industry's 996 schedule, calling it a huge blessing. "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 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. As reported by the South China Morning Post, Ma went on to defend 996 by saying that the culture has made Alibaba and Tencent, some of the largest tech giants in the world, become what they are today.
ABS-CBN reported, "In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected," Ma said. "Let me ask everyone, if you don't put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?"
"Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don't regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me," he said.
His comments though prompted criticism from social media users in the country. One of the users, as reported by CNN, asked Ma, "Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, (or) the children who need company?" wrote a Weibo user with the online moniker stupidcan123, in response to Ma's post. "If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children" because of a lack of time, the user added.
Meanwhile, Chinese state media also lashed out at companies that supported this rule without referencing Ma's post directly. "Advocating hard work and commitment does not mean forcing overtime," wrote state-run newspaper People's Daily in a commentary published on Sunday. "The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical."