Daily Management Review

Chinese Top Court Slams '996' Excessive Work Culture


Those companies in China that overwork their employees are being pulled up by authorities.  
A lengthy condemnation of the working culture commonly known in China as "996," a work culture wherein people work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, was issued by the top court of the country recently. This work culture is reported to be common practice among big technology companies, startups and other private businesses of the country.
"Recently, extreme overtime work in some industries has received widespread attention," the Supreme People's Court wrote in its statement, which it issued with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
The court wrote in the ruling that employees deserve rights for "rest and vacation," and added that "adhering to the national working hour system is the legal obligation of employers."
The ruling also cited a range of examples of such practices being followed by companies across different industries and said that this practice violated labour rules. The court specifically referred to an unnamed courier company that, the court said, ordered its employees to work 996 hours.
The court noted that companies ordering workers to work that much "has seriously violated the law on extending the upper limit of working hours and should be deemed invalid."
However criticism of the work culture by the public is not new in China.  
For example, two years ago, there was severe criticism of Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma in China after he described the 996 culture to be a "huge blessing."
Under Chinese labour laws, making workers work that long could be considered as breach of law.
This latest note from China’s top court comes at a time when Chinese authorities are engaged in a massive crackdown on private business in the country, coming out with new regulations and fines to curb the market dominance of powerful corporations.
President Xi Jinping and other top officials have justified the crackdown as being necessary for tackling the data security risks and inequality in education as well as to prevent social inequalities.
"There is nothing wrong with advocating working hard, but it cannot be a shield for employers to evade [their] legal responsibilities," the court wrote on the overworking issue.
The crackdown on private enterprise has reignited the debate about 996 work culture a mong some companies in China. There was severe criticism of the work practice of e-commerce company Pinduoduo in January over allegations that the company forces its workers to overwork. This after two of its employees died unexpectedly which included a man who committed suicide.
At that time, there was no comment on the issue and the allegations available from the company, but had commented that after the suicide of the worker, a team to provide psychological counselling had been set up by it.
An intense work culture is being rejected by young people in China in recent times by invoking a desire to "lie flat," or "tang ping." According to this philosophy, people are encouraged to reject societal pressures to work hard, get married, have children or buy property as the rewards of such accomplishing pressures have diminishing value.