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China moves on unpaid overtime to cancel deathly '996' work culture

  • China has produced a document that it says highlights the dangers of some companies' "996" work culture.
  • 996 refers to people working 9am until 9pm, six days a week.
  • The practice has come under fire from workers, some companies, and now the state.

China says a media worker collapsed in a company break room and later died from heart complications.

The person's unnamed employer was forced to pay the worker's family compensation, according to a paper published by the Chinese state ministries on Thursday.

It's one of 10 examples of court disputes mentioned in the paper, which highlights the impact of the "996" work culture - working 9am until 9 pm, six days a week - that pervades many of the country's top firms, Bloomberg reported.

The document, which was published by the Supreme People's Court and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, defined what constitutes overtime, and provided examples of when employers failed to follow the rules.

The 996 culture has been promoted by the country's increasingly dominant tech founders, including Alibaba's Jack Ma, but has seeped into other sectors. Ma once described the practise as a "blessing" for younger workers.

It has recently been drawing criticism from the Chinese public, and some companies, for its impact on workers and wider productivity.

By law, Chinese workers have to be paid extra when they work more than 8 hours a day, but firms have been avoiding paying them by exploiting loopholes, the document said, as reported by Bloomberg.

One company decided that workers only qualified for overtime pay after 9pm, while another insisted that any request needed signing off by a manager, the document said.

The document is part of a wider effort by the state to develop clearer guidelines on overtime, and clamp down on firms who don't pay workers what they are legally entitled to. More generally, General Secretary Xi Jinping is trying to realign the relationship between Chinese corporations and the state by placing increasing restrictions on private enterprises.

Workers have also been calling for change.

Exhausted and disenfranchised with endless work hours, Gen Z and millennials are taking to social media to promote the idea of "tang ping," which translates to lying flat.

The spiritual movement encourages people to take more time to unwind, and be happy with their current life, rather than chasing money or long work hours.


Stephen Jones , Business Insider US


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