Opposition to 996 reflects workers’ rising sense of rights
By Wang Yiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-28
The term”996″ has entered three lists of China’s top 10 buzzwords for 2019, which is not surprising given the controversy it has created. The figure 996 refers to a working schedule, according to which employees have to work from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week without receiving any overtime pay. This working schedule started in the internet industry and gradually spread to other sectors, and ultimately entered the public domain.
There is little doubt that the 996 system is untenable; it violates China’s Labor Law, which stipulates that the working schedule should not exceed eight hours a day or 44 hours a week, and that overtime should not exceed three hours a day and 36 hours a month, and that too with the workers’ consent. And more importantly, if employees agree to work overtime, employers have to pay them more than the normal rate for per hour of work.
A society that promotes an illegal practice such as 996 cannot be considered healthy. That’s why it is disturbing to hear some leading entrepreneurs voicing support for, even justifying the implementation of such an anti-labor practice. The verbal tricks that these entrepreneurs adopt are in reality a surreptitious and unscrupulous attempt to replace the legal working schedule with the 996 system, and force the workers to work overtime without extra pay.
Any entrepreneur who strives to achieve higher goals is worthy of praise. But if the entrepreneur chooses an illegal path such as the 996 system to achieve those goals, he/she should be pulled up for breaking the law.
To fulfill their own interests, some entrepreneurs appear ready to even violate workers’ rights and the Labor Law. Worse, some enterprises that want to lay off workers but are unwilling to pay them rightful compensation use the 996 system as a tool to force employees to voluntarily resign due to unbearable work pressure, which seriously undermines the employees’ legal rights and interests.
As the rule of law in China strengthens, young workers have become more conscious about safeguarding their legal rights and interests compared with their predecessors. For instance, on March 27, a program titled “996.ICU” produced by Chinese IT professionals was posted on global software platform GitHub exposing some internet companies’ illegal practices, and gave a call to boycott the 996 system which, apart from violating the Labor Law, also damages employees’ health.
The program evoked widespread public discussion, leading to the exposure of many tragedies in workplaces such as sudden deaths of workers due to overwork.
Those enterprises forcing their employees to work overtime without pay should abide by the law and stop the unhealthy practice. They should know that the 996 system will not solve their productivity and other problems, and help their enterprises to develop faster and earn them more profits. Instead, it will undermine workers’ creativity and productivity, and give their companies a bad name.
As the country changes its economic model from quantitative growth to innovation-driven higher-level, sustainable development, the enterprises should abandon the untenable growth model based on the 996 system and aim for sustainable and qualitative development.
That 996 has become a buzzword shows that workers, rather society as a whole, have become increasingly aware about social equality and legal rights of individuals. If the 996 system is a social disease, public opinion is playing a vital role in curing it, so as to build healthier employer-employee relations.
The author is a writer with China Daily.
From Steve ling…..
Karoshi (過労死), which can be translated literally as “overwork death” in Japanese, is occupational sudden mortality. The major medical causes of karoshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet. This phenomenon is also widespread in other parts of Asia.
The Japanese government today is trying to legislate so companies will close their doors at the end of the work day. No lights allowed. Offices must be closed.
And the government also allows the widows to sue the companies for compensation because of the premature death of their husbands! Is compensation the answer? No, when you die, you are gone, and there is no hope of a future for you, as a man, father and husband.
Are the companies in Japan taking the government’s ruling seriously? I would like to learn more about this. Steve Ling December 29, 2019