"No sleep, no sex, no life": So the end of March, the "South China Morning Post" described the life of Chinese professionals in the tech industry. Many suffered burnout before they reached the age of 30. Working hours are usually nine to nine, six days a week – known in the industry as Code 996.
But opposition to this exploitative working culture among young IT specialists in the country is now proving to be resistance – a reason for Jack Ma, whose Alibaba group also owns the "South China Morning Post", to express his views on the subject.
"Personally, I think it's a great blessing to work 996," said the 54-year-old billionaire and company founder, according to a post posted on WeChat's Alibaba account. "Many companies and many people do not have the opportunity to work 996," he said. "If you do not work when you're young, when can you ever work 996?"
Mas simple formula: more time + more energy = more success
Ma, a former English teacher who co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has become one of China's richest people, said he and his former staff regularly worked long hours. "In this world, everyone wants success, a beautiful life, and wants to be respected," Ma added – and continued, "Let me ask everyone: How can you achieve the success you want when you're out of time and energy invest as the others? "
Ma, who is also a member of the Communist Party, referred to the state of the technology industry, where many people are out of work or working in companies in danger of closure. "Compared to them I feel happy to this day, I do not regret them (twelve-hour working days), I would never change that part of me," said Ma, who wants to retire from Alibaba as Group CEO in September.
Tech scene activists launched the 996.ICU initiative this week on the GitHub software development platform to highlight poor working conditions in Silicon Valley, China. Alibaba is one of the companies with the worst working conditions.
China's state-run newspaper "People's Daily" recently warned that it would be required to comply with the standard working hours of 40 hours per week, which is also customary in China. Anyone who creates a corporate culture that encourages overtime can damage the company's competitiveness and impair its ability to innovate.