996: The Plight of Workers in China

996: The Plight of Workers in China

Fatima Qureshi, Opinions Editor

Behind the facade of internationally renowned companies are the employees that work night and day to produce new innovations to meet the public’s needs. China is the most notable. Something not widely known is the arduous workload required upon employees by big corporations. These companies have successfully suppressed the pleas of their workers. However, now the workers’ tipping point is reached due to these brutal working conditions, prompting them to fight back in solidarity. It is evident that corporations’ perception of the line between productivity and over exhaustion seemed to blur. Now laborers are calling for the government to step up to resolve their concerns. 


To set the background, China has far superseded other countries by setting the 996 quota: a grueling schedule consisting of a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week schedule for everyone. In China, work appeared to trump all. Workers, at first, were ready to make this sacrifice; thus, huge tech industries like Alibaba and Huawei became household names. This ideology shifted once workers realized the extent of unhealthiness these strenuous environments proved to become.


Disorder ensued after two workers at Pinduoduo, an e-commerce facility, committed suicide because of the brutal conditions the company enforced upon them. These two individuals highlighted the repercussions of hustle culture, propelling others to take action. 


“Workers Lives Matter”- a campaign of solidarity was created by employees in China to protest against excessive working hours. This campaign connects workers from different industries to share the number of hours they work and how many days they work in a week to show how common over-hours work times were. The 996, something which had been celebrated by President Xi Jinping and even the workers, has now become a burden to many. 


To quiet the chorus of cries, companies have taken action to improve the balance between work and life. Internet companies such as ByteDance  limited their hours along with others like  Kuaishou, an app, recently ended its policy requiring its workers to work on the weekends. Some companies, under the pressure of the demanding public, encouraged their workers to leave at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Slowly the 996 quota is diminishing as workers demand their rights, but are the measures established substantial in saving workers’ lives, or will the companies eventually revert to their initial strenuous conditions to become the best?