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Is China’s ‘996’ Work Culture Ever Justifiable?

By Isabelle Li / Apr 17, 2019 01:40 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Debate over China’s “996” labor culture — a work schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days per week — continues to rage, after two tech gurus romanticized the arduous hours in outrage-stoking statements last week.

But what about workers who choose to 996? Is a 996 schedule ever justifiable?

Even a voluntary 996 schedule is unfair, because it puts others at risk of falling into the schedule involuntarily, argues Chen Jie, a professor at the China Institute for Urban Governance of Shanghai Jiaotong University, in a commentary for Caixin.

If a society doesn’t restrict this practice, and continues to promote the prioritization of career over family and personal happiness, more and more employees will be forced into a 996 in order to stay competitive on the job market, Chen writes.

Chen advocates that the government intervene in order to protect lower-level employees by instating a legal limit for working hours and a minimum wage.

Only when employees’ schedules are truly optional can they stop being made anxious and over-competitive by the toxic culture of 996, Chen says.

Related: Jack Ma and Richard Liu Voice Support for Intense ‘996’ Work Culture – and People Are Not Happy About It

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