996 working hour system

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The 996 working hour system (Chinese: 996工作制; pinyin: Jiǔjiǔliù gōngzuò zhì), is an overtime work schedule of 9:00 AM–9:00 PM, 6 days per week.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] A number of Mainland China internet companies have declared this as their official work schedule,[8] despite the fact that the Labour Law of the People's Republic of China states that labourers shall work for no more than eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week on average; critics argue it is illegal to use the 72 hours per week 996 system.[9]

In March 2019 an "Anti-996" protest was launched via GitHub.[10][11]

Background[edit]

The culture of overtime work has a long history in Chinese companies, especially in some technical companies,[12] where the focus is on speed and reducing costs.[13] Such companies use a range of measures, such as paying for late-night taxi fares for the employees, in order to encourage overtime work.[14]

Relevant laws[edit]

The Labour Law of the People's Republic of China states:

Chapter 4 Article 36 The State shall practise a working hour system wherein labourers shall work for no more than eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week on the average.

Article 41 The employer can prolong work hours due to needs of production or businesses after consultation with its trade union and labourers. The work hours to be prolonged, in general, shall be no longer than one hour a day, or no more than three hours a day if such prolonging is called for due to special reasons and under the condition that the physical health of labourers is guaranteed. The work time to be prolonged shall not exceed, however, 36 hours a month.

Article 44 The employer shall pay labourers more wage remunerations than those for normal work according to the following standards in any one of the following cases:

(1) Wage payments to labourers no less than 150 per cent of their wages if the labourers are asked to work longer hours; (2) Wage payments to labourers no less than 200 per cent of their wages if no rest can be arranged afterwards for the labourers asked to work on days of rest; (3) Wage payments to labourers no less than 300 per cent of their wages if the labourers are asked to work on legal holidays.

Chapter 12 Article 90 If the employer prolongs work hours in violation of stipulations in this Law, labour administrative departments can give it a warning, order it to make corrections, and may impose a fine thereon.

Article 91 The employer involved in any one of the following cases that encroach upon the legitimate rights and interests of labourers shall be ordered by labour administrative departments to pay labourers wage remunerations or to make up for economic losses, and may even order it to pay compensation:

(2) Refusal to pay labourers wage remunerations for working longer hours;

Companies involved[edit]

58.com[edit]

In September 2016, classified ads website 58.com officially declared they were moving to a 996 working hour system,[15] attracting criticism from employees and others. The company responded that the 996 system was encouraged, but not compulsory.[8]

JD.com[edit]

After 58.com's 996 schedule was exposed to the public, an email screenshot from JD.com spread on the internet that showed He Gang, the vice-president of JD.com, implementing the 996 schedule.[16]

On 15 March 2019, an employee of JD.com alleged that some departments implemented the 995 schedule, while other departments used 996 schedule. Following the report, the public relations department of JD.com announced that overtime work was not compulsory.[17]

Richard Liu, the founder of the company referred to people complaining about such work schedules as "slackers".[18]

Youzan[edit]

On 19 January 2019, the social platform Maimai showed an employee from Youzan stating that their supervisor had enforced the 996 schedule.[19] Bai Ya, the CEO of Youzan, replied, "It must be good if you look back in several years."[14] Some media criticized this schedule.[20] On the afternoon of 30 January 2019, the Labour Supervision Group of Xihu District, Hangzhou announced that the company was under investigation.[21]

Others[edit]

At least 40 companies, including Huawei, Alibaba Group and JD.com implement a 996 or more intensive work schedule.[22][23][24]

Online protest[edit]

996.ICU GitHub campaign[edit]

logo of Anti-996 GitHub project

On 26 March 2019, the 996.ICU repository and website were created. The repository states that the name "996.icu" refers to how developers who work under the 996 system (9AM–9PM, 6 days per week) would risk poor health and a possible stay in an intensive care unit. The movement's slogan is "developers' lives matter".[25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

Two days later, on 28 March 2019, the repository had already received 50 thousand stars, and 100 thousand stars on 30 March 2019, which made it the top trending repository on GitHub.[32] The repository reached 120 thousand stars on 31 March 2019, and 200 thousand stars on 9 April 2019, making it the second most starred repository on GitHub. The flurry of activity led to the "issue" page of the repository to be flooded with spam and shut down, which was hotly discussed on Zhihu, Sina Weibo, and WeChat.[1][33]

The original aim of the repository was to list the companies that use the 996 working hour system, but soon developed into a movement - the Anti 996 Licence [zh] - to explicitly prohibit companies using the 996 system from using open source code on GitHub.[34][35]

Browser blacklist[edit]

External image
Screenshots of 360, Liebao, UC, QQ browsers that block 996.ICU repository on GitHub, and Firefox, Maxthon, and Opera that don't block the repo: Screenshot 1,Screenshot 2[36]

On 2 April 2019, it was widely reported that QQ Browser, WeChat (product of Tencent), UC Browser (product of Alibaba), 360 Browser (product of Qihoo 360) and other Chromium-based Chinese browsers blocked the 996.icu repository on GitHub, describing it as "an illegal and fraudulent site".[37]

Support by Microsoft employees[edit]

On 18 April 2019, employees at Microsoft and GitHub created a GitHub repository named "support.996.ICU" in support of the 996.ICU campaign, which they believe could be under threat of Chinese government censorship.[38][39][40][41][42][43]

Critics[edit]

Endorse[edit]

Oppose[edit]

  • Guido van Rossum: The 996 work schedule is "inhumane".[51][34][52][53]
  • Beijing DailyJack Ma and Liu Qiangdong are just "boasting" the 996 work schedule, aiming at disguised reduction of salary or lay-off. The article was reprinted by the People's Daily.[54]
  • China News Service: "It is unnecessary to exchange the life for money." The article was reprinted by the People's Daily.[55]
  • Xin Shi Ping: "The 996 working hour system breaks the labour law. It overtaxes the health and the future. It does harm to the hard-working workers and it is the misunderstanding of the hard-working spirit."[56]
  • People's Daily: "The hard-working advocacy is by no means enforced 996."[57][58][59]
  • Banyuetan: "Some entrepreneurs disregard the law, and associate 996 with hard-working. This is "poisonous" chicken soup. 996 is not the hard-working spirit, but the issues of the law and the benefits."[60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]