Chinese billionaire expects staff to work 12-hour days, six days a week

China's richest man has defended Alibaba's technically illegal practice of rostering its staff to 72-hour working weeks.

Jack Ma, founder of the online marketplace, says his staff should consider themselves lucky to have the opportunity to work what is known as the 996 working hour system - 9am-9pm, six days per week.

"I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing," he reportedly stated on the company's Weibo account.

"Many companies and many people don't have the opportunity to work 996. If you don't work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?"

The Labour Law of the People's Republic of China states that employees shall work for no more than eight hours a day and no more than 40 hours a week on average. While overtime is allowed, it can only amount to 18 extra hours per week, to a maximum of 36 hours per month.

However, despite the tech industry's extreme growth in China, Ma says that workers are often left unemployed or employed by companies with uncertain futures.

"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.

IT workers in China protested their labour conditions on the online code-sharing community Github in March under the banner 996.ICU, a topic that quickly went viral.

"By following the '996' work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU [intensive care unit]," according to the group's description.

After the group's launch, GitHub users compiled a list of companies that allegedly require a 996 schedule, including Alibaba, drone maker DJI, and Bytedance, the company behind the popular video-sharing app TikTok.


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