China tech firm enforces extreme overwork, exceeding contentious ‘996’ model

A technology firm in China has launched a “Striving for 100 Days” campaign by enforcing extreme overtime that exceeds the controversial “996” work model.

Screenshots of work group chats circulating online show that the company called for employees of a certain level to adopt an “896 work schedule” for 100 days, according to Sohu Finance, a mainland media outlet.

This means employees are required to work from 8am to 9pm, six days a week during that period, starting from mid-June.

The workers at the firm reportedly include mid-to-senior level and technical staff.

Reports in the mainland media did not identify the firm involved which is believed to be in Fujian province in southeastern China.

The Post reached out to the tech business but has not received a response.

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Many workers in China say they do not mind hard work as long as they are properly compensated. Photo: Shutterstock

One employee told Cailian Press that the 896 work schedule was verbally communicated during a departmental meeting on June 14.

Another told Caixin Media that while the company does not officially enforce the 896 work schedule, employees often work these hours, particularly in the research and development department where working overtime has become the norm.

Another person from the company told Chengdu Economic Daily that they indeed issued the “Striving for 100 Days” call but denied having the 896 policy.

“The 896 work model is just a rumour. As for the ‘Striving for 100 Days’ call, we need to work hard to thrive in this booming industry. Perseverance and hard work are what we should promote now,” the person said.

The firm’s expectation has reignited the debate about overtime culture and the controversial 996 model – working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – in China.

In 2019, an anonymous online observer initiated an online protest on GitHub, a global developer platform owned by Microsoft, arguing that the 996 work schedule threatens the health of tech workers.

The requirement by companies for employees to work six days a week, 12 hours a day quickly became a hot topic in China.

Workers often feel they should work overtime because it is an “unwritten rule”. Peer pressure is another significant factor.

In August 2021, China’s top court ruled that the 996 policy was illegal.

Technically, China’s labour law bars employees from working more than eight hours a day and 44 hours a week, while overtime should not exceed 36 hours a month.

However, a recent search by the Post found that excessive overtime culture remains a frequent topic of complaint on mainland social media.

One worker told the Post that he had been involved with a project continuously for a month, working until 11pm every day with no days off. He said he was doing the work of two to three people.

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China’s labour laws state that the amount of overtime worked should not exceed 36 hours a month. Photo: Shutterstock

Some employees in China will only tolerate the demands on their time if they are paid well.

Fu Peng, chief economist at Northeast Securities, said that China’s young people are not unwilling to work but are unwilling to work “without fair compensation”.

“If the pay is 10 times the usual wage, young people will work overtime until the boss goes bankrupt,” he said.

An online observer echoed Fu’s view, writing on Weibo: “We are not afraid of hard work, we are afraid that the effort and the reward do not match.”

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