Recently, there are discussions about overtime culture in many high tech companies in china. Many of young tech companies require the employees to work in a so called 996 schedule. That means from 9am to 9pm six times a week.

A commentary from Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba/Taobao, was describing it as a blessing for young people. This coursed a wave of complain, troubles and discomfort.

In the west, overtime does not get honored and even stigmatized. For young people it would be easy to work some extra hours, so many do. But as people get in there lives and family more responsibilities, with children and caring for the elderly parents, such a tough plan for overtime can not be done.

it is very much accepted practice, that older employees get better pay. In the west, with the old dream of life time employment, you want a regular raise and expect to get more then your younger colleges. At this point you could even think, they young people should not to overtime. but is that fair for young people to waist their potential? I believe young people who want to work more and harder, there should be the opportunity, to work more, harder and have the chance to get similar salary as an older longer employed coworker with more experience, who probably work flexible hours.

but I do not even think this is what Jack Ma was referring to. There are two other reasons, why Ma would say, they the massive overtime culture would be a blessing for young people.

First, the great opportunity that a job in technology can offer. China has a growing middle class. This is a group also refusing to spend so much time in office. No, Getting a Job in the technology industry is a good opportunity for people from the poor areas of China. There are whole cities, where the average income of families does not exceed 20000Rmb (2000$).

I am sure, you can find some smart people there, the school system is teaching then good math skills and maybe some english. Teach those guys some JS or SQL, offer them 30000rmb a year and let them share a flat with 10 coworkers. That is better than anything they ever dreamed of. And they just because the gap between rich and poor is so wide. And for that gap, Jack Ma is hardly to blame.

The second reason I see, is they young people today are loosing direction. They want a great job. But don’t know what to study, or even what to study for. Young people in the big cities of china grow up in a very modern world today, with all advantages the life has to offer. When I have Job interviews with young people, the young people want to learn. But few really have a sense what to study for.

With the 996 schedule, they can on the job deliver valuable work for the employer while at the same time learning truly valuable skills, that universities struggle to provide.

Should we do 996?

Having this reasoning, should companies adopt a 996 culture? Should young people work in such a schedule?

To answer this, I want to quote Mr. Brian Tracy. ‘You work 8 hours a day, 5 times a week, only for survival.’ everything above that, is and should be ony for yourself. To improve your living. And as you get older, get other and more responsibilities, you can step back a little and while still maintaining your standard of living.

  1. 1. Should we do 996?