China’s Burned Out Tech Workers are Fighting Back Against Long Hours

1The draining 996 work schedule—named for the expectation that employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week—has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. Even Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma once called it a “huge blessing.”

In early October this year, it seemed the tide might have been turning. After hopeful signs of increased government scrutiny in August, four aspiring tech workers initiated a social media project designed to expose the problem with the nation’s working culture. A publicly editable database of company practices, it soon went viral, revealing working conditions at many companies in the tech sector and helping bring 996 to the center of the public’s attention. It managed to garner 1 million views within its first week.

But the project—first dubbed Worker Lives Matter and then Working Time—was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. The database and the GitHub repository page have been deleted, and online discussions about the work have been censored by Chinese social networking platforms.  The short life of Working Time highlights how difficult it is to make progress against overtime practices that, while technically illegal in China, are still thriving.

But some suspect it won’t be the last anonymous project to take on 996. “I believe there will be more and more attempts and initiatives like this,” says programmer Suji Yan, who has worked on another anti-996 project. With better approaches to avoiding censorship, he says, they could bring even more attention to the problem.

Tracking hours

Working Time started with a spreadsheet shared on Tencent Docs, China’s version of Google Docs. Shortly after it was posted, it was populated with entries attributed to companies such as Alibaba, the Chinese-language internet search provider Baidu, and e-commerce company JD.com.  “9 a.m., 10:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m., six days a week, managers usually go home after midnight,” read one entry linked with tech giant Huawei. “10 a.m., 9 p.m. (off-work time 9 p.m., but our group stays until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. because of involution,” noted another entry (“involution” is Chinese internet slang for irrational competition).

Within three days, more than 1,000 entries had been added. A few days later, it became the top trending topic on China’s Quora-like online forum Zhihu.  As the spreadsheet grew and got more public attention, one organizer, with the user name 秃头才能变强 (“Only Being Bald Can Make You Strong”), came out on Zhihu to share the story behind the burgeoning project. “Four of us are fresh college and master’s degree graduates who were born between 1996 and 2001,” the organizer said.genesis3-1-1

Initially, the spreadsheet was just for information sharing, to help job hunters like themselves, they said. But as it got popular, the organizers decided to push from information gathering to activism. “It is not simply about sharing anymore, as we bear some social responsibility,”

The spreadsheet filled a gap in China, where there is a lack of company rating sites such as Glassdoor and limited ways for people to learn about benefits, office culture, and salary information. Some job seekers depend on word of mouth, while others reach out to workers randomly on the professional networking app Maimai or piece together information from job listings.  “I have heard about 996, but I was not aware it is that common.

Now I see the tables made by others, I feel quite shocked,” Lane Sun, a university student from Nanjing, said when the project was still public. Against 996 According to China’s labor laws, a typical work schedule is eight hours a day, with a maximum of 44 hours a week. Extra hours beyond that require overtime pay, and monthly overtime totals are capped at 36 hours.125x125-1-1-1

But for a long time, China’s tech companies and startups have skirted overtime caps and become notorious for endorsing, glamorizing, and in some cases mandating long hours in the name of hard work and competitive advantage.  In a joint survey by China’s online job site Boss Zhipin and the microblogging platform Weibo in 2019, only 10.6% of workers surveyed said they rarely worked overtime, while 24.7% worked overtime every day.

 Long work hours can benefit workers, Jack Ma explained in 2019. “Since you are here, instead of making yourself miserable, you should do 996,” Ma said in a speech at an internal Alibaba meeting that was later shared online. “Your 10-year working experience will be the same as others’ 20 years.” But the tech community had already started to fight back. Earlier that year, a user created the domain 996.icu.

A repository of the same name was launched on GitHub a few days later. The name means that “by following the 996 work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU (intensive care unit),” explains the GitHub page, which includes regulations on working hours under China’s labor law and a list of more than 200 companies that practice 996.  Within three days, the repository got over 100,000 stars, or bookmarks, becoming the top trending project on GitHub at that time. It was blocked not long after by Chinese browsers including QQ and 360, ultimately disappearing entirely from the Chinese internet (it is still available through VPNs).

The 996.icu project was quickly followed by the Anti-996 License. Devised by Yan and Katt Gu, who has a legal background, the software license allows developers to restrict the use of their code to those entities that comply with labor laws. In total, the Anti-996 License has been adopted by more than 2,000 projects, Yan says. Today, 996 is facing increasing public scrutiny from both Chinese authorities and the general public.

After a former employee at the agriculture-focused tech firm Pinduoduo died in December 2020, allegedly because of overwork, China’s state-run press agency Xinhua called out overtime culture and advocated for shorter hours.This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but workers pay the priceSouth Korean e-commerce giant Coupang uses AI to promise almost-instant delivery. But speed comes with troubling labor issues—including worker deaths.

And on August 26, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Supreme People’s Court jointly published guidelines and examples of court cases on overtime, sending reminders to companies and individuals to be aware of labor laws. But even though authorities and state media seem to be taking a tougher stand, it is unclear when or if the rules that make 996 illegal will be fully enforced. Some companies are making changes.quintex-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-2-2-1-1-1

Anthony Cai, a current employee of Baidu, says working six days a week is quite rare in big companies nowadays. This year, several tech companies including and ByteDance, the developer of TikTok, canceled “big/small weeks,” an emerging term in China that refers to working a six-day schedule every other week. “Working on Saturday is not that popular anymore,” Cai says. “However, staying late at the office is still very common, which is not usually counted as overtime hours.” 

 Source: https://www.technologyreview.com

.

More Contents:

“Guide to Employment law in Spain”

High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta

The Delta version has muted the progress of the US economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers delaying some holiday spending and businesses returning to normal operations, according to multiple high-frequency reports. Show softness in August.

Airlines

The number of passengers passing through airport checkpoints has started declining again. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration, 1.47 million passengers flew on Tuesday, the lowest in more than three months. The seven-day average dropped to about 1.76 million passengers a day at the end of August, from about 2.05 million a month earlier.

While this partly marks the end of the summer holiday season, airlines have cited the Delta version as well. “There has been a slowdown in holiday bookings and an increase in cancellations,” said Helen Baker, senior research analyst at Cowen Inc. As companies delay return to offices, the return of business air travel may also be delayed, she said.

Restaurant Dining

After narrowing the gap to just 5-6% at the end of July, sit-down meals at U.S. restaurants have been down about 10-11% from 2019 levels in recent weeks, according to OpenTable, which processes online reservations. Is. Concerns about Delta and the city’s mandate are playing a part, according to the company.

“We see a clear decline in late July and August,” said OpenTable CEO Debbie Sue. “While several factors may be at play here, we believe the primary driver of the slowdown is diners’ concern about the rise in COVID cases.”

Hotel Occupancy

According to STR, a lodging data tracker, while leisure travel helped boost some popular destinations in the summer, the number of hotel stays declined for four consecutive weeks. Average room rates for three weeks have dropped.

Among the 25 major US markets, none saw engagement in the week ending August 21 compared to the same week in 2019, STR found. Occupancy in San Francisco has dropped by more than 40%, the most of any market.

“Demand looks like it’s doing a little worse than a normal seasonal decline,” said Bill Crowe, Raymond James Financial Analyst. There is a “coolness on travel due to delta-type case growth” with the business-travel markets underperforming.

Job Listing

While the labor market has hardened this year, and many employers say they are struggling to fill positions, there are some signs of a slowdown in demand among Delta. Dental office and child care jobs, for example, have declined in job postings for positions that would call for close contact with the public.

“During the latest wave of the virus, those virus-sensitive sectors have already seen a decline in job postings,” said Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko. If the wave continues, “demand for labor could collapse if people cut back on travel, eating out and other services.” And potential workers may be reluctant to look for work, he said.

Home Again

Big US companies’ plans to bring workers back to their offices in busy business districts are being reversed. Average office occupancy in the 10 largest business districts fell to 31.3% of pre-Covid-19 levels for the week ended August 18, according to data from Kastel Systems.

While the August holidays may have contributed, “the return to normal offices has been a bit slow due to delta,” said JPMorgan Chase Real Estate Investment Trust analyst Anthony Paolone.

This affects not only real estate but also a group of businesses that depend on offices, such as dry cleaners and urban restaurants, and the city through taxes.

“There is a cascading effect for the vibrancy of the various urban cores,” he said.

By: and

Source: High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta – Bloomberg

.

Related Contents:

Real-time data show virus hit to global economic activity

A third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown

FDA anticipates disruptions, shortages as China outbreak plays out

Global stocks head for worst week since the financial crisis amid fears of a possible pandemic

European stocks fall 12% on the week as coronavirus grips markets

Scenario analysis, contingency planning, and central bank communications

WHO warns of global shortage of face masks and protective suits

A ‘short, sharp’ global recession is starting to look inevitable

Coronavirus: A visual guide to the economic impact

The coronavirus is expected to have cost 400 million jobs in the second quarter

Pandemic knocks a tenth off incomes of workers around the world

European Union Reveals $826 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan To Battle Coronavirus Damage

Economic Consequences of the COVID-19 Outbreak: the Need for Epidemic Preparedness

The effect of control strategies to reduce social mixing on outcomes of the COVID-19 epidemic in Wuhan, China

Governments around the world respond to COVID-19 impact on the arts

Even After Pandemic Retail, Shopping Trends May Change

U.S. May retail sales surge 17.7% in the biggest monthly jump ever

A completely new culture of doing research.’ Coronavirus outbreak changes how scientists communicate

The economy post-COVID-19: How to support investment without too much debt

%d bloggers like this: