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Work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week: Jack Ma demands of his staff at Alibaba

Bloomberg & Reuters/ 13 Apr 19 | 01:39 AM

To survive at Alibaba Group Holding you need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s what billionaire Jack Ma demands of his staff at China’s biggest e-commerce platform. 

Later as controversy brewed over his remark, Ma defended overtime work culture at many of China’s tech companies, calling it a "huge blessing" for young workers.

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Earlier, Ma told an internal meeting that Alibaba doesn’t need people who look forward to a typical eight-hour office lifestyle, according to a post on Alibaba’s official Weibo account. Instead, he endorsed the industry’s notorious 996 work culture — that is, 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. “To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss," China’s richest man said. “If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why even bother joining."

China’s tech industry is littered with tales of programmers and startup founders dying unexpectedly due to long hours and grueling stress. The comments from Ma elicited some intense reaction.

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“A load of nonsense, and didn’t even mention whether the company provides overtime compensation for a 996 schedule," wrote one commenter on the Weibo post. “I hope people can stick more to the law, and not to their own reasoning."

“The bosses do 996 because they’re working for themselves and their wealth is growing," another comment read.  

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Ma’s comments come amid a fierce debate. Programmers in China protested their labour conditions on the online code-sharing community Github in March under the banner 996. ICU, a topic that quickly became the site’s most popular, with more than 211,000 stars. 

But Ma appeared unperturbed by the criticism. “If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?," he posted on the company’s WeChat account. On Thursday, an opinion piece published in a state newspaper argued that 996 violated China’s Labor Law, which stipulates that average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours a week.

“Creating a corporate culture of 'encouraged overtime’ will not only not help a business’ core competitiveness, it might inhibit and damage a company's ability to innovate," the unnamed author wrote in the People's Daily.

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