Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma says it's a 'blessing' for his staff to work gruelling 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesChinese tech billionaire Jack Ma.
  • Alibaba cofounder and chairman, Jack Ma, came out in support of China’s gruelling working hours in a speech to employees on Thursday.
  • He referred to China’s infamous “996” schedule – a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week – as being a “blessing” for young workers.
  • Ma’s comments were supported by Richard Liu, the billionaire founder and CEO of Chinese ecommerce giant
  • Visit for more stories.

Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma endorsed China’s gruelling work hours in a speech to employees on Thursday.

In the speech last week, Ma referred to China’s overtime culture, known as “996” – a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week – as a “huge blessing” for young workers.

“Many companies and many people don’t have the opportunity to work 996,” he said, Reuters reported. “If you don’t work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?”

This provoked a backlash online, prompting Ma – who has a net worth of nearly $US40 billion according to Forbes – to write a blog post on Sunday addressing his comments.

“As I expected, my comments internally a few days ago about the 996 schedule caused a debate and non-stop criticism,” Ma wrote in the blog post, translated by Bloomberg.

“I understand these people, and I could have said something that was ‘correct.’ But we don’t lack people saying ‘correct’ things in the world today, what we lack is truthful words that make people think.”

Alibaba did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Richard LiuAndrew Burton/Getty ImagesRichard Liu, CEO of Chinese ecommerce giant

Ma said in his blog post that forcing employees to work these hours was “inhumane.” However, “if you find a job you like, the 996 problem does not exist,” he said. “If you’re not passionate about it, every minute of going to work is a torment,” CNBC reported.

Richard Liu, the billionaire founder and CEO of Chinese ecommerce giant, supported Ma’s view. In a message on his WeChat feed last week, Liu said: “Slackers are not my brothers!”

Earlier this month, an online protest, known as “996.ICU,” was launched on GitHub against these long work days. Workers shared examples of excessive overtime hours and voted for the top blacklisted companies, Reuters reported. Alibaba was called out in this.

Ma and Liu are not the only business figures to condone long work days, however. Elon Musk, who famously works long hours and survives off little sleep, said on Twitter in November that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” He later said that people need to work from around 80 to over 100 hours per week to make a big impact.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.