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The 996 Culture

May 24, 2024

What is the 996 culture?

This refers to a work schedule that has been making waves in the tech industry, particularly in China. Yes, the “996” culture. It’s a practice that’s been both supported and criticized for its impact on employees and companies alike. But first, what exactly does “996” mean? It refers to a work schedule from 9 AM to 9 PM, six days a week. Yes, that’s a whopping 72 hours per week! 996!

So, the “996” culture is not just about long hours; it’s also a symbol of the intense work ethic and the drive for rapid growth many Chinese tech companies embrace. However, this practice has come under scrutiny, especially following a recent incident at Baidu Inc. Listen to this headline:

Baidu Executive Quits After Reviving Toxic Work Culture Debate

The article discusses how Baidu’s media relations chief, Qu Jing, resigned last earlier this month after a significant backlash over a series of videos she posted. In these clips shared on Douyin, which is China’s version of TikTok, Qu talked about keeping her phone on 24-7 and sternly warned her subordinates to stay in line.  

This incident has reignited the furor over the relentless “996” culture, raising questions about its sustainability and ethics. So, what are the implications of such a demanding work schedule? From a business perspective, while “996” may drive short-term productivity and growth, the long-term effects can be terrible: employee burnout, high turnover, and negative public perception can overshadow any initial gains.

Not only that, the ‘996’ practice raises significant legal and ethical issues. Overworking employees to such an extent can be seen as a violation of labor rights and could potentially harm a company’s  reputation. It raises the question: How do companies balance the need for competitive advantage with ethical business practices?

As we wrap up today’s episode, I invite you to think about the future of work. Will practices like “996” continue to define industries, or will we see a global shift towards policies that prioritize employee well-being and sustainable productivity?

Let me know if you are interested in private conversation classes. I currently have 2 spaces available, but I expect them to fill up quickly. Also, remember you can find the course ‘Economists in Action’ on our website with a special discounted price. This course offers and audio-visual approach to learning more than 400 key words anyone who needs to discuss economic issues will appreciate.

That’s all for today’s episode. Thank you for tuning in to “English for Economists.” Don’t forget to share your thoughts on this topic on our social media or shoot us an email. I’m Alan Robert, and I look forward to exploring more intriguing economic terms with you next time. Stay curious!


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