Summary of Is the 9-to-9, Six-Days-a-Week Work Schedule a Privilege or a Pain?

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Computer engineers working for Chinese internet start-ups typically work from 9 a.m. to 9 p. m., six days a week. Reporter Huang Jinping discusses recent protests against this work schedule that may push readers and possibly HR professionals to reflect on work–life balance.

About the Author

Huang Jinping is a reporter for Southern Weekly, which The New York Times has called “China’s most influential liberal newspaper”.

 

Summary

In March 2019, a group of programmers initiated a project named “996.ICU” on the software development platform GitHub to protest against long work hours. The project aims to use rational arguments and legal means to get employers to acknowledge the rights and interests of employees. In a matter of days, the project spawned a heated debate on social media.

The term “996” stands for the typical working hours of software engineers in China’s internet start-up scene – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week – while “ICU” refers to the intensive care unit. The term is implying that the intense work schedules are harming people’s health.

Although the 996 schedule isn’t usually listed in employment contracts or corporate policies, it pervades the internet start-up culture...


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