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Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma has expressed his support for working long hours to achieve success in China’s tech industry, but his comments sparked a backlash from many users on the country’s social media platforms.
Ma brought up the industry’s controversial 996 schedule, which refers to working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, during a speech to Alibaba’s employees.
“I think it is a huge blessing that we can work 996,” Ma said, according to Alibaba’s WeChat account post on Friday.
Ma told Alibaba’s employees that they should be willing to pay the price for choosing to join “China’s top-ranked” company. “If you want to work for Alibaba, you should be prepared to work 12 hours per day,” he said. Ma recalled that early employees of the e-commerce company also had to work long hours.
A former English teacher who cofounded Alibaba in 1999, Ma is currently the China’s second-wealthiest person with a net worth estimated at $40.1 billion. The country’s richest person, Ma Huateng, also happens to have built his success in the tech sector as the cofounder of Tencent. “Pony Ma,” as he’s known, has a fortune estimated at $43.8 billion.
“Any company should not, and cannot, force employees to keep a 996 work schedule,” Ma wrote in a follow-up post on his own personal Weibo account on Friday. “Alibaba has always advocated, living your life with gusto and being happy at work. But young people, themselves, must understand that happiness is a struggle! Not defending 996, but do pay tribute to the fighters!”
Alibaba was unable to reply to a request for comment on Ma’s remarks. The speech has been widely shared in China’s microblogging platform Weibo, where Ma received over 36,000 comments on his 996 post.
“It’s okay that we work 996, even ‘9107’ is acceptable. But you should pay more for employees to do so. Salary is the problem,” wrote one commenter to Alibaba’s Weibo post. “Don’t discuss dreams with your employees who have just enough to eat and wear.”
On China’s popular Quora-like website Zhihu, one of the most popular answers, said Ma’s speech is “shifting the meaning” that overwork is about personal growth even though it’s inconsistent with the labor law.
At the end of March, some tech workers launched an online project on Microsoft’s code-sharing site Github to protest against China’s overwork culture and seek a better work-life balance. The project has been dubbed “996.ICU,” in reference to the fact the workers following the 996 work schedule are risk of ending up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
April 14, 2019 at 10:40AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs