Chinese Workers: Not 996 But 955

The site itself actually online spreadsheet which documents the hours worked in various industries that can be accessed by anyone. The public website is part of the “Worker Lives Matter” campaign, which highlights the importance of paying attention to the physical and mental well-being of workers.

Organized by four millennial creators who keep their identities a secret, this document started as an information-sharing tool to help job seekers evaluate job offers. Many netizens responded and recorded their company’s work schedule.

The details include company name, department, position, city, working hours, meal times, working days, and job demands. It covers a wide range of industries such as technology, finance, real estate, architecture, and education.

Although readable, the document cannot be edited carelessly. Netizens can still revise it by submitting information via an online form.

Atmosphere at the Zhongguancun technology center, Beijing, China, August 23, 2021. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

Atmosphere at the Zhongguancun technology center, Beijing, China, August 23, 2021. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

According to one of its four creators, the project has become a collective effort to make working hours more transparent and unite young people against the culture of unreasonable overtime.

“This is not just an information sharing project but a social effort. We hope to make a certain contribution to ban 996 and popularize 955,” he said on Zhihu, a platform in China similar to Quora.

China’s famous 996 work culture requires employees to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Young Chinese people want the government to enforce the 955 pattern, working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week.

He added that people can only enjoy working overtime if it is for self-fulfillment.

“For example, I’ve been working on 996 on this spreadsheet for the past two days. But I’m happy. I enjoy the process,” he said. “Watching the development of this spreadsheet and then getting supportive feedback from others, I was satisfied.”

According to his statement on the internet, the document had gathered information from 1,173 companies and had been viewed more than 100,000 times as of 7 p.m. Beijing time, on October 12.

The project was originally called “Workers Lives Matter” but was later changed to “Working Time” because it was deemed too politically sensitive, according to many media outlets in China.

Logo of Bytedance, the China-based company that owns the short video app TikTok, or Douyin, at its office in Beijing, China, July 7, 2020.

Logo of Bytedance, the China-based company that owns the short video app TikTok, or Douyin, at its office in Beijing, China, July 7, 2020.

The project has caused heated discussion on Zhihu, where most netizens expressed their support.

“I appreciate the people who have created and worked on this spreadsheet. It must take time to do all this work,” said one netizen.

“This document provides a lot of information and provides a more realistic picture of these companies to the public. It helps people to know what to expect and urges companies to treat workers better,” another netizen commented.

Although working time, according to China’s labor law, is eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week, companies in China, especially large technology companies, still demand excessive working hours.

Young Chinese people now tend to seek a healthy work-life balance. “Life is more important than work. We hope we can work hard but at the same time live a good life, “wrote a netizen in Zhihu.

Employees work at the headquarters of China's online discount store "Pinduoduo" group in Shanghai, China July 25, 2018. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Employees work at the headquarters of the group’s China online discount store “Pinduoduo” in Shanghai, China July 25, 2018. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Long hours first came to attention in 2019, when a number of tech workers launched a similar online campaign against “996”.

In recent months, criticism of long working hours has been growing, following a government crackdown on technology companies over their treatment of workers.

This year, a number of Chinese companies, including ByteDance, which owns Tik Tok; short video platform Kuaishou; and food delivery giant Meituan, has removed overtime obligations on weekends. China’s Supreme Court last August described “996” as illegal. [ab/uh]

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