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What is 996 work and why is it so harmful?

Millions of Chinese workers are practicing long hours of work, even though they are not healthy. Let's see what this new labor system consists of .

Group of people in a subway car

Chinese workers face a workday of approximately 12 hours a day. / Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es el trabajo 996 y por qué es tan dañino?

Chinese working hours are usually quite atypical. Contrary to popular belief, China has a problem with its productivity. A report carried out by The Conference Board reveals that there is a trend that has been taking place in recent years, which is the drop in productivity. For example, each employee generated only 19% percent of the GDP of an American worker.

Precisely, the rhythm of work causes complaints within the workers. One of the main ones is the 996 work style, which is often seen in employees of technology startups. Jack Ma himself, the founder of Alibaba, considers it to be "a blessing", although the truth is that it is the subject of debate on Chinese social networks. Let's see why.

The problem of 996 jobs

The term 996 is easy to explain. It is a working day in which workers divide their day of activity. It consists of 12 hours a day, from 9 in the morning to 9 at night, for 6 days a week. All this results in 72 hours a week, with the aim of increasing employee productivity and generating wealth in the country.

These hours are also known as ICU, because the Intensive Care Unit is used to this type of work. Despite this, there are also variants: 995, where the days are only extended to 5 days a week, so that employees can have one more day off.

Precisely, the CEO of AliBaba mentions that it is a perfect work schedule for youth. That is, if you don't do it when you have energy, there is no other time to practice it. The problem is that Chinese workers do not usually think the same, to the point where different protests against this type of regime arose.

From the BBC they indicate that there began to be a "wakefulness of revenge" as a strategy to combat this labor mechanism. After the shifts of many workers, there was a "small window" to have a personal life. Generally, this moment was used to eat, shower and go to sleep ... although sleep began to be sacrificed to have more personal time.

Basically, it consists of using all the time missing during the work routine, watching videos on the Internet, reading articles or simply staying awake talking with your friends. This phenomenon began to spread on social networks, generating a feeling of empathy with all workers who were also tired of not having their own time for their tasks.

Also read: How to prevent muscle aches caused by teleworking

The problem is that this measure also threatens the body's own health. The Phillips Global Sleep Survey, which had more than 13,000 responses in 13 countries, showed that 62% of adults do not get enough sleep. The average is 6.8 hours on a weeknight, but the recommendation is 8 hours a day to be able to perform better, something that, sometimes, is impossible due to work obligations.

In other words, the "Asian work culture", revered by the West,  also generates unproductive workers. The basic point is that, having to meet such demanding work rates, employees arrive at their jobs badly rested, since they stay with the phone during the night to compensate for the little free time they have during the day.

At the same time, eastern workers appear to have a results-based work structure. The more goals you achieve, the higher you can move up the work pyramid. Otherwise, not only will they stay in the same place, but their jobs could be jeopardized. In other words, it becomes a vicious circle from which it is difficult to get out.

Thus, in the quest to improve employee productivity, China is achieving the opposite: employees who no longer have the desire to work, who arrive at their jobs poorly rested and who wait to finish the day to have free time. Although in China it has its manifestations against it, it would be dangerous for this culture to reach the West, since it would greatly increase job insecurity.

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