News12-Hour Days, Six Days a Week

12-Hour Days, Six Days a Week



To understand work culture in China, start with a number: 996.

It’s shorthand for the grueling schedule that has become the norm at many Chinese firms: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

The term originated in the technology sector around five years ago, when the country’s nascent internet companies were racing to compete with Silicon Valley. At first, workers were willing to trade their free time for overtime pay and the promise of helping China match the West.

China’s economy has grown into the second-largest in the world. Tech behemoths like Alibaba, Huawei and ByteDance, which owns TikTok, are household names. But recently, more tech workers are resisting the at-all-costs culture.

Some in China’s working class dismiss the complaints as elite griping; after all, tech workers are highly paid and educated. But the debate also offers a window into the country’s economy more broadly, and the expectations of its young people.

The first major pushback to 996 came in 2019, as China’s economic growth slowed and tech workers began questioning their work conditions. Online protests followed, but the movement faded under government censorship.

This year, 996 shot back into the news after two workers died at Pinduoduo, an e-commerce giant. Officials promised to investigate working conditions, although it’s not clear what — if anything — has come of that.

Since then, some companies have taken steps to improve work-life balance. Kuaishou, a short-video app, in July ended a policy requiring its staff to work on weekends twice a month. One division of Tencent began encouraging workers to go home at 6 p.m. — though only on Wednesdays.

See also  A Possible Election Call as the Pandemic’s 4th Wave Gets Underway

The pushback to 996 also reflects the hopes and anxieties of China’s young people.

Many are willing to endure the working conditions because of the competitiveness of the job market. The number of college graduates in China rose by 73 percent in the past decade, a stunning achievement for a country that had fewer than 3.5 million university students in 1997. As a result, more people are competing for a limited pool of white-collar jobs, as I wrote earlier this year.

See also  The Taliban moves into Kabul, as the Afghan government collapses and the president flees.

But it’s also clear that many are sick of the rat race. Some Gen Zers have turned to reading Mao Zedong’s writings on communism to rage against capitalist exploitation. An online craze this year called on young people to “tangping,” or “lie flat” — essentially, to opt out, as my colleague Elsie Chen has written.

The Chinese Communist Party sees the burnout and the threat it poses to economic growth. On the one hand, it has promised to better support college graduates in their job hunt. But it has also censored discussions of tangping.

What began as a conversation about tech companies’ treatment of elite workers has expanded to include lower-skilled workers, especially gig laborers.

Middle-class Chinese people have increasingly shown solidarity with those workers. Last year, when package couriers went on strike before a major shopping holiday, many on social media cheered them on.

In some ways, the new awareness mirrors the backlash against tech companies in the U.S. But it has also run up against uniquely Chinese issues of censorship. Just as with the college graduates, the government has promised more protections for gig workers. But earlier this year, officials arrested a well-known delivery worker who had tried to organize his fellow workers.

See also  Typhoon Damages Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin Sculpture in Japan

Vivian Wang is a China correspondent for The Times.

  • Senators finished writing a 2,702-page bipartisan infrastructure bill. It could pass within days.

  • Hundreds of climate scientists left the government during the Trump administration. Many of their jobs are still vacant, slowing President Biden’s climate agenda.

  • Zoom agreed to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company violated users’ privacy.

  • In 2018, a singer performed at a rally supporting a pro-democracy candidate in Hong Kong. Today, officials arrested him.

  • President Kais Saied of Tunisia, who suspended Parliament last week, said in an interview with The Times that he was not aiming to “start a career as a dictator.”

  • Four years after a white supremacist march, Charlottesville, Va., is reconsidering its zoning rules to encourage construction of more affordable housing.

  • Six months after Myanmar’s military coup, the top general said the junta would remain in charge for at least two more years.

  • New York City has begun pushing homeless people off the streets of Manhattan. Some say they have nowhere to go.

See also  Days May Be Numbered for the World’s Oldest Bank

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss infrastructure and the Olympics.

Use science, not anecdotes, to study unidentified aerial phenomena, Harvard’s Avi Loeb writes in Scientific American.

Business casual: Wall Street firms are relaxing their dress codes.

Quiz time: The average score of our latest news quiz is 7.3. What’s yours?

A Times classic: Here’s the best exercise for aging muscles.

Lives Lived: Frenchy Cannoli spent nearly two decades wandering the globe to master the secrets of making hashish, and taught others what he learned. He died at 64.

See also  How a French Novelist Turns the Tables on History

This May, the French government introduced an app that gave 300 euros — roughly $350 — to every 18-year-old in the country. The goal was to guide teenagers toward more highbrow art, using the money for cultural items — things like books, theater tickets, museum passes, records and art supplies.

So far, many of France’s teenagers have flocked to manga, a type of Japanese comic book, Aurelien Breeden reports in The Times. Books represented over 75 percent of all purchases made through the app, called Culture Pass, and roughly two-thirds of the books were manga.

Jean-Michel Tobelem, a professor who specializes in the economics of culture, said the tendency toward mass media was not necessarily a bad thing. “You can enter Korean culture through K-Pop and then discover that there is a whole cinema, a literature, painters and composers that go with it.”

Still, Tobelem said, the app gives few incentives for young people to engage with “works that are more demanding on an artistic level.”

Gabriel Tiné, a student in Paris who has spent over 200 euros of his pass at a local record store, is a fan of the initiative. “I wouldn’t say no to attending a jazz concert or something like that,” he said. “What’s interesting is that each person can do what they want with it.” — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer

See also  The Propaganda War Intensifies in Afghanistan as the Taliban Gain Ground



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

How to Be a Better Christian: 5 Important Tips

As a Christian, you believe in all the goodness that God has brought into your life, but it can...

How to Save Money With Your Family

Saving money is never easy, and saving money as a family can be even more difficult. If you’re interested...

Watch livescore football and become a professional in your favorite game

A new season in the Spanish championship has started. Now, you can follow all the competitions from the world...

Your Thursday Briefing

We’re covering the Taliban’s violent response to protesters and Israel’s Covid surge despite high vaccination rates.The Taliban met...

Garth Brooks cancels tour dates due to Delta variant

The country superstar on Wednesday said he's canceling the next five stops on his tour, the last of...

‘There’s So Much More to Afghanistan’: Khaled Hosseini Reflects on His Birthplace

These are stories. This is the perspective of someone who has lived in exile, essentially since 1980. Salman...

Must read

How to Be a Better Christian: 5 Important Tips

As a Christian, you believe in all the goodness...

How to Save Money With Your Family

Saving money is never easy, and saving money as...

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you