China’s 9-9-6 Work Culture: Everything you need to know - INFOGRAPHIC

What is 996 Work Culture?

9-9-6 means working from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. This work schedule is very common in China, especially in the tech industry.

While 996 itself isn’t surprising in modern Chinese work culture, billionaire Jack Ma’s comments about it have made a lot of people angry. He said, “I personally think 996 is a huge blessing… How do you achieve success you want without paying extra effort and time?”

BUT, as you might guess, the story is much different for those working this grueling schedule day in and day out WITHOUT seeing the huge profits that their efforts generate.


Infographic showing the implications of China's 996 work culture

The effects of 996 is directly linked to all sorts of social issues.

China’s birth rate keeps going down. According to multiple surveys, young people have expressed that always working overtime leaves them with no time to fall in love, get married or have children. There’s no life outside of work. All they are left with is lack of sleep.

China’s Labor Association says 996 creates a great concern to China’s goal of promoting common prosperity through protecting basic rights and interests of workers. It goes against society’s expectations of what a responsible enterprise should do and must not become the norm.

In extreme cases, people have died from overwork. In 2021, the Pinduoduo case where a female employee died from overwork brought the government’s attention.

Government response

In response to the Pinduoduo case in 2021, China’s supreme court and ministry of labor have stated that a 996 work schedule is strictly illegal. There have been at least a dozen court cases on labor exploitation since then and employees have always won.

China’s labor laws already prohibited excessive overtime long before 996 became a term. But it wasn’t really enforced much.

In March 2022, the Chinese government launched an unprecedented initiative to curb the 996 culture. Beijing’s ministry of social security started an investigation to audit labor law compliance expected to last 2 months. They’re checking whether employees are receiving their rights to fair hours and vacation time. Provinces like Shandong, Anhui, Henan, Guangxi, Qinghai, Hunan, Hubei have also followed suit.

Tech companies are at the center of this investigation. Local governments have also stated that strict penalties will be given out to violators.


What people really think about 996

People are pissed. Everyone can see that only a small minority get to experience financial freedom through sacrificing their time and health. Most people are still living paycheck to paycheck and cannot see much change happening for the rest of their lives. It’s a depressing outlook and when the masses experience this, it’s a major health and societal issue.

The “blessing” that Jack Ma talks about only applies to wealthy entrepreneurs like himself and other supporters of 996 like JD’s founder.

Western countries don’t have it perfect but at least their hours are much shorter in comparison.

996 is an abomination of work culture and it needs to be fixed.