Alibaba founder Jack Ma has come out as a vocal supporter of the gruelling working hours commonplace in China’s tech and internet industry known as the 996 schedule.
The 996 schedule – which means working 9am to 9pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have,” Ma said in an internal event on Thursday, according to a transcript published on Alibaba’s official WeChat account.
“If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when will you?” Ma asked. “Do you think never having to work 996 in your life is an honor to boast about? If you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?”
Ma later quantified his statements, cautioning that companies should never enforce such a policy but that it should come from the motivated workers.
“No one likes working at a company that forces you to do ‘996’. Not only is it inhumane, it’s unhealthy and even more unsustainable for long periods – plus workers, relatives and the law do not approve of it,” he said. “In the long term, even if you pay a higher salary, employees will all leave.”
He added companies that thought they could profit by forcing staff to work overtime were “foolish” and doomed to fail.
“If you find a job you like, the 996 problem does not exist; if you’re not passionate about it, every minute of going to work is a torment,” said Ma.