The Richest Man in China Calls 12 Hour Work Days a “Blessing”

The richest man in China, Jack Ma, started the e-commerce company Alibaba. Ma is a proponent of extreme overworking. He admires China’s “996” practice, which refers to employees working from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M., six days a week. He recently called these 12 hour work days a blessing. Ma claims that people will be rewarded for their hard work if they work longer hours. Regarding his own company, he revealed that employees not interested in working such hours need not apply. Ma isn’t the only business leader with these views. Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, once said, “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” Although we don’t have China’s 996 practice, close to ⅓ of workers in the U.S. work 45 hours or more each week.

Reactions to Ma’s Claim

Many have spoken out against the culture of extreme overworking that Ma promotes. For example, if everyone worked a 996 schedule, people wouldn’t have time for children. Others have responsibilities to care for elderly family members at home. The Chinese state media responded to Ma, saying “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical.” Furthermore, research seems to suggest that Ma’s claims about the rewards of overworking are not true. One study found that, after 40 hours a week, working more hours doesn’t have a financial benefit. Research has also linked overworking to worse career outcomes. Finally, the CDC has found that working more hours is linked to poorer health outcomes. Overworked and fatigued employees also harm employers. For example, in the United States alone, fatigued workers cost employers $100 billion in lost productivity.

Overtime Law in the United States

American unions started pushing for 40-hour workweeks as far back as the 1800s. As employers saw output increase as hours decreased, consensus grew that overworking employees was counter-productive. The Fair Labor Standards Act standardized the 40-hour workweek in 1938. An employer must now pay covered employees time and a half for every hour worked over 40. There have been several proposals in recent years to classify more employees as overtime eligible. For example, President Obama drafted a proposal that offered new or strengthened overtime benefits to over 13 million workers. The courts struck down this proposal. President Trump drafted a new overtime proposal with a lower salary threshold that would cover roughly 4.8 million workers if the courts allow it.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have not been paid your rightful overtime wages, seek legal assistance today. The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.