Some Chinese workers are rebelling against grueling "9-9-6" workplace culture

Chinese workers rebel against "9-9-6" culture

Many Americans are enjoying a long holiday weekend, taking a break from their typical eight-hour work days.  In China, the government officially caps workers days at eight hours as well, or a maximum of 44 hours a week – but a so-called "9-9-6" schedule is pressuring some workers into 12 hour days, six days a week.

Some workers, like engineer Austin Liu, are starting to push back against the grueling work schedule. His day at one of China's tech giants started at 8:00 a.m., and should have ended at 8:00 p.m., but he said that nobody wanted to be the first to leave, for fear of being labeled unprofessional or uncommitted.

The term "9-9-6" means nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week. That includes hours and hours of unpaid overtime. It's illegal -- but the government turns a blind eye, because long hours build China's tech giants, like Alibaba and Huawei, that employ millions and make billions.  

But change could be coming. "If you're going to have 9-9-6 work culture, I'm sorry, you're not going to be able to get the top Chinese talent anymore," said Shaun Rein of the China Market Research Group. Rein said that a decade ago, young people were inspired by the race to make China a world leader in tech. But now the thrill – and the promise of striking it rich – are largely gone. 

"Younger Chinese just don't want to slave away either working for a multi-national company…" Rein said, "[or] work in a factory or even work for a Chinese billionaire like Jack Ma. And they're starting to push back."

That's not welcome news for tech bosses like Ma, who called 9-9-6 "a huge blessing."

Tech employees in Silicon Valley work long hours, too, but they get perks that range from free food to unlimited vacation. That's not the case in China. So four months ago, Liu quit his 9-9-6 job. He said through a translator that companies need to start recognizing that "productivity depends on employees' health and quality of life."