Protesting long hours
Many people dream of becoming a programmer for a major tech company, as such work can secure a high salary. However, it may also mean having routinely to accept overtime work.
Recently, a programmer introduced a project called "996.ICU" on github.com, the well-known code-sharing website. The project criticized the "996 work schedule" where employees work from 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week, with the prospect of ending up in an intensive care unit (ICU).
The work schedule is common among Chinese tech companies. On the website, many programmers working for China's tech companies shared evidence showing that their companies asked them to work the long hours, reported CGTN. Among them were major names like e-commerce leaders Alibaba and JD.com, as well as telecoms equipment maker Huawei.
"The overwork culture is rooted in China's tech industry. I worked '996' for nine months. During that time, I had serious insomnia due to the high pressure. So, I quit," a former software developer surnamed Zhang, told Quartz.
However, several bosses of tech companies have defended "996" as a kind of work culture. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, said it's "a huge blessing" for young workers to work "996".
"If you don't do '996' when you're young, when will you?" Ma said, according to a post on Alibaba's WeChat account. "If you don't invest more time and energy than others, how will you achieve the success you want?"
However, People's Daily said that those who questioned "996" should not be labeled.
"Valuing hard work does not equate to forcing employees to work overtime," commented the newspaper. "One should not attach the moral labels of 'slackers' or 'not willing to strive' to employees who are against '996'."
Meanwhile, Cui Zhendong, a lawyer with the Yiqian Law Firm, told China Daily that it is illegal for a company to introduce a compulsory "996" work schedule for employees, since the Labor Law clearly states that one should only work eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week.
Katt Gu, a US-trained tech industry lawyer, said that tech companies should motivate employees and give full play to their creativity and productivity.
"Technology shouldn't be a labor-intensive industry; it should be a creative industry. Creative people need to take a rest," Gu told South China Morning Post.