Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma has defended the grueling overtime work culture at many of China’s tech companies, calling it a “huge blessing” for young workers. Reuters reports:The e-commerce magnate weighed into a debate about work-life balance and the overtime hours demanded by some companies as the sector slows after years of breakneck growth. In a speech to Alibaba employees, Ma defended the industry’s “996” work schedule, which refers to the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week. “I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing,” he said in remarks posted on the company’s WeChat account. “Many companies and many people don’t have the opportunity to work 996,” Ma said. “If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?”
“In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected,” Ma said. “Let me ask everyone, if you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?” Ma referred to the tech industry today where some people are without jobs, or working at companies in search of revenue or facing closure. “Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don’t regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me,” he said.On Thursday, an unnamed author published an opinion piece in a state newspaper, arguing that 996 violates China’s Labor Law, which stipulates that average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours a week. “Creating a corporate culture of ‘encouraged overtime’ will not only not help a business’ core competitiveness, it might inhibit and damage a company’s ability to innovate,” the author wrote.