Saturday, February 25, 2017

"996": the Chinese 24/7

(Photo from Business Insider)
Americans who say they work "24/7" (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) are exaggerating, of course, because everyone has to sleep. They do work long hours, and 24/7 emphasizes the point that they're on call during their "time off". Calendars are not under owners' control.

As a junior accountant 40 years ago, our schedule averaged 16/7 in January-February, when the audit load was most intense, and in March-April, the peak of tax season. Summer was "normal," a time to take vacations and continuing education classes. I don't think that I could have maintained the busy-season pace throughout the year past the age of 30.

In China it's common to have "the dreaded “996” schedule—9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week."
Chinese labor law dictates a 40-hour workweek and extra pay for overtime, but many companies circumvent those rules by asking employees to sign contracts that say their jobs require flexible work schedules.

For many workers, the 996 schedule is routine. Even so, a handful of recent deaths of men in their 30s and 40s who were employees of hard-charging tech companies have triggered discussions in Chinese media and social networks about the harsh work environment.
I doubt conditions, at least in technology, will become better in China until the power imbalance between labor and management is corrected. In the U.S. a smart person with little money can attract capital and compete for skilled employees. In China business success depends a great deal on who one knows in the government. Until job opportunities become more plentiful, being stuck in a "996" job will be the fate of most workers.

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