China’s tech billionaires have gotten rich partly because their employees embraced a corporate culture called 996: work from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. Now amid unprecedented layoffs, the bosses have advice for their staff: work even more.
Richard Liu, the founder of online retailer JD.com said “the number of slackers has rapidly grown” in his company, according to Reuters and Chinese media. “Slackers are not my brothers!” he reportedly said in a social media post. His comments come as JD.com is working on a substantial round of layoffs that could cut some teams in half, as The Information reported last week.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma also chimed in. In a blog post, he extolled the virtues of working long hours. “If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when will you?” he said, adding it was “an honor” to work that hard.
China’s grueling work culture has become the subject of heated debate, as the country’s economic slowdown creates greater challenges for tech giants and startups. While founders have reaped billions, some rank-and-file employees are starting to question the point of their sacrifice.