Workers in the tech industry are expected to work "996" Photo: Aly Song, Reuters

CLW Labor News Brief for April 2019

Workers in the tech industry are expected to work "996" Photo: Aly Song, Reuters
Workers in the tech industry are expected to work “996” Photo: Aly Song, Reuters

“996’ Is China’s Version of Hustle Culture. Tech Workers Are Sick of It.

(Lin Qiqing and Raymond Zhong,The New York Times, 04/29/2019) Jack Ma, a founder of Alibaba, called long work hours “a huge blessing.” Richard Liu, who runs the Alibaba rival, said people who frittered away their days “are no brothers of mine.” Tech workers in China are discouraged by a weakened job market and downbeat about their odds of joining the digital aristocracy, have other ideas.They are organizing online against what in China is called the “996” culture: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Now they are naming and shaming employers that demand late nights. Some programmers are even withholding their creations from companies that they think overemphasize 996 work schedule.

Related: GitHub Has Become A Haven For China’s Censored Internet Users (NPR)

—China’s beleaguered tech workers have deluged GitHub in the past month with

thousands of post protest “996” schedules and demanding better working


China’s ‘996’ Overwork Culture Fueled Its Tech Engine. Why Workers Are Finally Burning Out (Fortune)

—“The reason why the 996 protests arose now is because China’s Internet industry, which had been continuously growing at very high speed for the past decade, [is] feeling the stress of the economy slowing down,” says Li Chen, a social sciences professor at Chinese University Hong Kong.

A Post About China’s “996” Workweek Went Viral On GitHub. Now Microsoft Employees Want To Protect It From Censorship. (BuzzFeed News)

—Microsoft employee petition to support 996.ICU, reads. “These same issues permeate across full time and contingent jobs at Microsoft and the industry as a whole.”

Why China’s Letting Its Digital Serfs Rise Up (Bloomberg)

—The fortunes of China’s white- and blue-collar workers were diverging. The government is also particularly concerned with keeping educated, middle-class workers happy, given how clustered they are in economically vital cities. Chinese officials, too, are educated, middle-class urbanites. More importantly, promoting a healthier work environment for tech workers happens to comport with several of the government’s signature initiatives. For example, authorities are trying to encourage Chinese urbanites to have more children to offset population decline, something they’re unlikely to do if slaving away at the office constantly. The government also wants to promote consumption, which requires both higher wages and more leisure time.

While China’s tech sector discusses 996 work culture, spare a thought for the masses of ‘dispatch workers’

(Jenny Chen, South China Morning Post, 04/30/2019) The discussion on long working hours may have highlighted practices in the tech industry, but the fight for decent working hours has long been an uphill battle for China’s millions of so-called dispatch workers.

11 Die as Elevator Cable Snaps at Work Site in North China

(The New York Times, 04/25/2019) Eleven workers were killed and two seriously injured Thursday when an elevator at construction site in northern China fell due to snapped cable, state media said. Recent months have been particularly deadly for Chinese workers, underscoring shoddy enforcement of safety regulations and a desire by management to cut corners as the economy slows.

‘They’re not guilty, they have caring hearts’: Chinese workers demand release of labour rights activists

(Pak Yiu, Hong Kong Free Press, 04/23/2019) Some 100 Chinese workers suffering from a work-related disease have signed a petition demanding the release of three prominent activists in southern China amid a crackdown on labour activism.

Related: China’s Labor Activists ‘Hold Fast to Freedom’

—“The whole world is waiting for you to come back. ‘Hold fast to freedom in the wind and rain,’” wrote Zheng Churan in a postcard to her husband, Wei Zhili, a labor activist detained in March by authorities in the city of Shenzhen, southeast China.

China’s army of migrant workers is becoming older and less mobile, new government data shows

(Cissy Zhou, South China Morning Post, 04/30/2019) A report published by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that China migrant workers have become less willing to travel far from home to look for work, with many inland governments encouraging them to return home to start their own businesses.The survey also found that China’s migrant workers are growing older. More than 22.4 percent of migrant workers are now aged over 50, a rise of 1.1 percentage points from a year ago and 5.3 percentage points higher than five years earlier.

The forgotten victims of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

(Aaron Halegua and Jerome A. Cohen, The Washington Post, 04/23/2019) Despite critics around China’s Belt and Road projects, there is one group of victims is overlooked: the Chinese workers dispatched overseas to build Belt and Road projects. If discussed at all, these migrant workers are generally demonized as the infantry “invading” the host country and “stealing” local jobs. In reality, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation by their employers, sometimes even more so than their local co-workers.

‘Bitter Money’ and ‘Bitter Rice’: Migrant Workers Face Toil and Trouble

(J.Hoberman, The New York Times, 04/26/2019)Chinese film director Wang Bing’s 2016 documentary ‘Bitter Money’ take stage in North Ameirca. ‘Bitter Money’ is a movie portraying dispossessed young rural migrants who leave their villages for low-paying jobs in the booming garment factories of Huzhou.

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