China’s tech workers burn out mentally and physically in the ‘996’ rat race

Date: May 27, 2019
By: Serenitie Wang, CNN

Beijing (CNN)Wang Shichang works 12 hours a day, often for six days a week. The newlywed is so busy he says he barely has time for his wife.
At the age of 28, Wang’s energy levels are low. His eyes feel strained and dry. His sleep is light, and he says he’s put on 20 pounds since he started working as a developer four years ago.
“Climbing four floors makes me out of breath these days,” he says.
Wang blames his condition on what’s known in China as “996” — a grueling work schedule that stretches from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, which has become the norm at many Chinese tech companies and start-ups.

The topic has prompted heated debate on social media, with many tech tycoons and entrepreneurs weighing on the merits of long and stressful working hours. Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba and one of China’s richest men, drew criticism earlier this year after he endorsed long work hours, calling them “a blessing.”

Wang doesn’t agree with Ma — and he’s not the only one. Many others have been voicing their complaints on Github, an online forum known in the tech world for code-sharing.

They also share “anti-996” memes that poke fun at their predicament. In one, a Japanese actress was photoshopped to carry a sign saying: “Developers’ lives matter.” In another, a couple hold up wine glasses with the caption: “Come, let’s celebrate being in the same room together for the first time in two years.” The Github project has been liked more than a quarter of a million times.

Despite the humor, Wang, the tech workers and experts alike say overwork is leading to serious mental and physical health problems.    [FULL  STORY]