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China spells out how excessive ‘996’ work culture is illegal

NEW DELHI: China has issued its most comprehensive warning yet against the excessive-work culture that pervades the country’s largest corporations, using real and richly detailed court disputes to address a growing backlash against the punishing demands of the private sector.

The Supreme People’s Court and ministry of human resources and social security published a lengthy essay on Friday about labor violations and unreasonable overtime, labeled ‘996’ because of the common practice of working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.

It outlined 10 cases -- including but not limited to the tech industry - in which employees were forced to work extra hours, or put in harm's way.

In one case, an unidentified tech firm asked employees to sign agreements to give up overtime pay, which the court ruled unlawful.

In another, a media staffer passed out in the office restroom at 5.30 am before dying of heart failure. The court ruled the death work-related and asked the company to pay the victim’s family about 400,000 yuan ($61,710).

"We are seeing a strong trend towards encouraging people to use the court system to go after tech companies. We think civil litigation will increase,” said Kendra Schaefer, head of digital research at consultancy Trivium China. But the question remains, she adds, as to “whether or not this signals regulators are turning their attention to this social problem.”

China's increasingly profitable tech giants are grappling with public outrage over their grueling schedules, a backlash fueled by a growing chorus of complaints on social media and even deaths.

Tech billionaires from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder lack Ma Inc chief Richard Liu have long endorsed the practice as necessary for survival in an intensely competitive industry — and the key to accumulating personal wealth.


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