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China Businesses The Almighty Buck

Young Chinese Are Sick of Working Long Hours (bbc.com) 190

Young professionals in China are pushing back against employers who expect them to work around the clock, saying no to the decades old "rule of 996" -- working from 9am to 9pm six days a week. From a report: At the forefront are millennials who are often better educated, more aware of their rights and more interested in finding something fulfilling than the previous generation. And as only children (China's one-child policy wasn't eased until 2015), they are also outspoken and pampered. "In my experience young people, especially the post-90s generation, are reluctant to work overtime -- they are more self-centered," says labour rights expert Li Jupeng, one of many who have observed some millennials challenging the 996 concept.

The relative affluence of their parents and grandparents is part of the reason. China's rapid economic transformation has given rise to a sizeable middle class, with almost 70% of the country's urban population making between $9,000 and $34,000 annually in 2012. In 2000, that figure was just 4%. As only children, millennials are receiving a lot of support from their families -- including a financial safety net should their careers not go as planned. Although their options for pushing back are limited, some are no longer willing to put in long hours for a meagre paycheck.

Young Chinese Are Sick of Working Long Hours

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  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:03PM (#56588592)

    Amazing how each generation thinks the one that follows it are a bunch of losers for wanting something different than what their parents want.

    Nobody likes being forced to work long hours. China's economy is getting to the point where a lot of Chinese finally have a choice in the matter. That's a good thing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Amazing how each generation thinks the one that follows it are a bunch of losers for wanting something different than what their parents want.

      We are not making fun of Millennials for rejecting what their parents wanted. We are making fun of them for embracing what the grandparents and great grandparents were smart enough to improve upon. The dude over there in his homespun going on about the superior sound quality of Edison cylinders is ridiculous.

    • Spoken like a true millenial.

    • Amazing how each generation thinks the one that follows it are a bunch of losers for wanting something different than what their parents want.

      Nobody likes being forced to work long hours. China's economy is getting to the point where a lot of Chinese finally have a choice in the matter. That's a good thing.

      Next, with more free time and more self-worth, they'll want democracy, and the right to speak uncensored.

    • Only tangetially relevant to parent, but a note of caution to those who deride millenials for being millenials... might want to look up the varying definitions of the term, as it can easily include folks up into their mid 30s. Kind of funny when you turn out to be the very thing you're making fun of, or worse yet, a post-millenial... let me tell you about those post-millenials... </sarc></hyprocrisy>
    • They do have a choice, go and buy property in New Zealand, Australia or Vancouver and utterly destroy the housing market for the locals.

      Would you say I'm bitter about this?

      Fuck yes I am, extremely, the governments of those 3 places should be fucking executed for treason for what has gone on to the 50 and under people who aren't in the housing market, we've been robbed due to their greed (allowing it to happen)

      • They do have a choice, go and buy property in New Zealand, Australia or Vancouver and utterly destroy the housing market for the locals.

        Would you say I'm bitter about this?

        Fuck yes I am, extremely, the governments of those 3 places should be fucking executed for treason for what has gone on to the 50 and under people who aren't in the housing market, we've been robbed due to their greed (allowing it to happen)

        Wow... so the property market problems in Australia are solely as a result of Chinese investors? Not generous negative gearing concessions that see a flood of money put in as a tax shelter? Not due to artificial restrictions on supply by policy makers scared of upsetting the large baby boomers voting block that don't want development in their inner city neighbourhoods? Not due to inadequate infrastructure spend on connections and development of regional suburbs and smaller cities that has lead to almost hal

        • > Wow... so the property market problems in Australia are solely as a result of Chinese investors?

          No, not entirely actually, but very much exacerbated by them. When they shouldn't be allowed to buy at all.

          > Not generous negative gearing concessions that see a flood of money put in as a tax shelter? Not due to artificial restrictions on supply by policy makers scared of upsetting the large baby boomers voting block that don't want development in their inner city neighbourhoods? Not due to inadequate in

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:03PM (#56588594)

    They need an union!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There was a time when even if everyone worked flat out 24/7 there still wouldn't be enough food and other basic necessities: lots of people were going to have to go hungry and many people were even going have to starve.

      But now we have enough farming and manufacturing technology that we can produce enough for everyone in the world to have enough basic necessities to live simply but comfortably. And that's just if the working age population is willing to do an honest 40 hour week - no need for overtime.

      So the

      • Which country are those poor dying in? That might give insight into WHY they are dying. Hint: it's really none of the things you are talking about.
        • Which country are those poor dying in? That might give insight into WHY they are dying. Hint: it's really none of the things you are talking about.

          GP said "But most of the distribution problem is between the ordinary people and the rulers.", which looks reasonably accurate to me. Quite a few governments in crappy countries really don't care if their citizens starve.

          • Deng was probably referring to Emperor Moa's Great Leap Forward, during which 30,000,000 starved to death and billions went hungry. Let us hope Emperor Xi is wiser, for he is now just as powerful.

    • If you had bothered to read the article you would know that market forces are already solving the problem.
      • Labor is a "market force," Unions give workers bargaining power they wouldn't have as an individual
        • by tomhath ( 637240 )
          Yes, that's true. But unions are not the only market force. Hence my response to GGP's comment that they "need" a union.
        • by mikael ( 484 )

          In China's case there are more employers desperately needing workers than there are workers. Workers communicate rapidly using mobile phones about the best and workplace environments. This had led to rising salaries and companies being forced to relocate factories inland to find workers.

          In the West, salaries are high in those areas where there are more employers than workers. The places to avoid are one company towns or those university cities where there are more graduates than jobs.

          • Yeah, Adam Smith talked about that. The problem is that the boost in pay is temporary. If the economy settles down and doesn't grow, worker pay goes down. (Smith's example was China, a wealthy country with really poor people, ironically.)

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      Wasn't the "communist party" supposed to be the ultimate union for workers?
      Oh wait, China is walking away from communism as part of it's economic modernization...

      Whoops, I forgot that "communist" actually means "dictatorship" and "communist party" means "ruling-class" in modern usage... Maybe the workers should unite in solidarity [wikipedia.org]...

    • Not sure why this is a joke.

      Union participation has a strong correlation with a more equitable distribution between workers and investors [telltalechart.org] (as measured by the Gini coefficient).

      The real irony is that China was founded on a worker's revolt and broad support of the ruling coalition among the lower classes and that over the years -- through corruption and graft -- it's lost any pretense of standing for worker's rights or indeed any rights other than for those in power and with wealth.

  • happy to just have a job.

    That's what the last place I worked told me when I had 14 weeks of unpaid 24/7 on-call.

  • Hopefully, you will focus on doing your own start-ups, honest ones.
  • Ok, we might not be on 12 hours a day 6 days a week anymore but it still sucks unless you're lucky enough to bag a job you enjoy that doesn't just suck the fun out of it.

    "I'm only working here because I need more fucking money"
  • China can either become more like the West, or they can be overrun by their own citizens -- or, I suppose, go the al-Assad route and start slaughtering them wholesale for daring to want a different way of life. People don't want to live like this, no matter how much you try to indoctrinate them that it's 'normal' and 'right'.
    • Facetiously speaking, they probably are becoming more like the West, in glorifying long working hours and career above all, et cetera.

      As mentioned above by some users already, Asian culture in part does emphasize this kind of behavior quite a bit. I remember reading something about workers in Japan going to work in spite of adverse symptoms in the aftermath of that terrible subway sarin incident.
      In addition, the Chinese have a fairly strong tolerance for suffering calamities, as their history would seem
  • Once you reach a certain income, you ask "why am I trading my life away for this?"

    It's a good sign that the chinese economy is maturing. They still won't achieve wage parity for another 20 years at current rates and that will give them a competitive advantage until then.

  • by JD-1027 ( 726234 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:33PM (#56588862)

    "...young people, especially the post-90s generation, are reluctant to work overtime -- they are more self-centered," says labour rights expert Li Jupeng

    Not wanting to work overtime is considered self centered? China will thrive even more with young people that finally understand that life is much more than your job.

    • And now you understand the joke that is communism. It is amusing that communists and marxists in the west forget about the "expected to work themselves to death for he glorious party" bit of communism.

      • by skam240 ( 789197 )

        For starters, China isn't really communist. They call themselves as such but more of their economy is privately controlled than not. That's not very communist.

        Also, I seem to be a little fuzzy on my Marx here. Which writings of his are you referring to with "expected to work themselves to death for he glorious party"?

        • I'll bite. Marx's plan was that humans can cooperate for the benefit of everyone. A very game theory idea, and on the surface it seems great as long as assholes don't mess it up. Golden rule is the best rule. And, hey, capitalism is kind of crap when you look at it, lots of wealth imbalance.

          However, "benefit of everyone" is somewhat subjective when it comes down to the details. The only way to get everyone on board is to have a totalitarian state forcing everyone to do exactly what they say. The people in

          • by skam240 ( 789197 )

            See, you did exactly what the other poster did, you took Marx and then put your own spin on it.

            What Marx actually says on this subject is that there will be a mass mind set change as part of the revolution and that what you describe won't be a problem

            Don't get me wrong, I don't think this will ever happen but that is what Marx actually laid out.

      • I thought the "sacrifice self for the people" was more of a general asian culture thing
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Might have lost something in translation.

      Chinese people often put family first. Younger people are becoming more independent, thinking more about their own needs and wants.

      Or maybe he is just a capitalist pig-dog who expects people to kill themselves for his bonus. Hard to say...

  • Are we sure they were not saying they didn't want to work wrong hours?
  • Typical entitled millennials too lazy to work like their parents did. No wonder the boomers hate them so much.
    • The parents of "typical millennials" worked 40 hours a week.

  • by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:49PM (#56588996)
    Seriously - wtf is there to do for 12 hours per day 6 days a week? If they were digging in mines, ok, I could see that, though with the physical nature of it, they'd probably be better off getting more rest. Or is just fill-a-seat type "work"?
    • by jetkust ( 596906 )

      Seriously - wtf is there to do for 12 hours per day 6 days a week?

      Solitaire.

    • The shop has to stay open, why would you want to pay 2 people if you didn't have to?
      Why have 2 shifts of widget makers if you can just make the first work longer etc. (of course the reason is productivity, but don't tell them that, they are already stealing all our jobs)
    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Manufacturing: box packing, component assembly, soldering, inspection, electronics repair. Look at some of the videos of people walking around Shenhzen. You can build your own smartphone simply by walking around shops, collecting the components, then buying a case and getting the touchscreen glued in place.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I don't know about China, but a I have been in developing countries where the inefficiency is just outrageous, It is mostly because wags are low, people need to work a lot of hours to make a living, and any innovation is frowned upon because it would cost jobs.

      For example, in the US if you had to go a teller to get money at the bank, it is a quick transaction, usually not requiring any paper. However, many other countries still require not only paper, but a complicated ritual that can easily require 10

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Small parts that are still larger enough for a human to place along the production line.
      That don't need a robot to be set up.
      Products and services that change every few months so a new complex robot is still just too expensive.
      The option to move to an Indonesia, Laos and set up a new factory and get lower costs than in China.
      Buy more new robots and attract more special production lines that pay more per product.
      Just keep on using humans and keep the new parts size human worker ready.
    • Seriously - wtf is there to do for 12 hours per day 6 days a week?

      QA / QA on Microsoft products.

  • As long as there is someone willing to trade their life away cheaply the rest of the globe is stuck with those poor conditions. The most clever phrase I ever heard was "We are the 99%". At the end of the day, fairer economics will help people far more than any number of "social issues". You can't get to 99% unless you ditch social issues that fracture it like BLM. That's why social issues get pushed so hard by the media, to keep us from realizing that we've all been conned while we argued over bathrooms
    • by Green Mountain Bot ( 4981769 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @03:32PM (#56590424)
      You can't get to 99% if you ditch that stuff, though. And really, people not wanting to be subject to harsher treatment by the police due to the color of their skin doesn't seem terribly unreasonable to me.
      • You can't get to 99% if you ditch that stuff, though. And really, people not wanting to be subject to harsher treatment by the police due to the color of their skin doesn't seem terribly unreasonable to me.

        People have limited bandwidth and all problems cannot be tackled simultaneously. Fixing the problem of the 1% taking all economic gains helps 99% of the people. Fixing any other social issue will help less than 99% of the people. To do the most good start with what benefits the most people.

  • Good luck to them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:00PM (#56589090)

    8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest. My grandfather bled for this so Mr. Project Manager can go fuck himself for his overtime. May they have a better time than we did with our labor-owner relations. The pinkertons, the homestead strike, the Colorado Labor Wars, company script, blacklists, strikebreakers, infiltrators, massacre. Least we forget [wikipedia.org].

  • These three hour workdays are killing me!

    (Pedantic note: The Jetson's have represented George's work hours randomly, from 3 hours above (assumed this is 'overtime'), to 2 hours, 3x a week, to 1 hour, 2x a week)

  • You mean having few children (one) means your parents can provide a safety net with more income and you can get out of poverty? Something must be wrong with that ...
  • If it wasnt for 996 the luxury of pushing back against in now wont exist. The Chinese are not starving and the global economy better today and we have nice toys thanks to the fact that they were cheaper than western manufacturing.

    I am not saying they need 996 at the same time they have to respect that it was needed.

  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:50PM (#56589570)

    You know, the "40 hour" week was formalized in the US by uneducated line workers many of whom could barely read. It doesn't take a half a life time of education debt to grasp the concept. These attitudes are emerging in China because the demand for workers is high enough that workers have leverage, not because they have degrees.

    • These attitudes are emerging in China because the demand for workers is high enough that workers have leverage, not because they have degrees.

      Not quite. The thing is you can't compare all countries directly, especially due to the incredible cultural differences between them. Making demands of your employers just because you have buying power? Not in your parents China! That would be considered disrespectful. It would be frowned upon. What kind of a man would not actually *want* to work 12h/6d to provide for their family. Are you not a good family man? Shame on you.

      Education is required to get over that mindset, and not just personal education. Yo

      • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

        That would be considered disrespectful. It would be frowned upon.

        Workers in the West were subjected to all manner of cultural shaming by the ruling class, the clergy, their elders, law enforcement, effectively everyone. Your ignorance of this history is painfully obvious.

        Education is required to get over that mindset

        So says you. History supports my view. You have educrat talking points.

        • Your ignorance of this history is painfully obvious.

          I'm not ignorant of this. By comparing the USA at the dawn of the industrial age to China *you* are. Being disrespectful in the east and in the west has two very different connotations.

          Did any of your elders fall on their own swords in shame? Thought so.

          So says you. History supports my view.

          History supports both our views as we are talking about two different cultures. Your ignorance of this Chinese history is painfully obvious.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @02:12PM (#56589738) Homepage Journal

    When I ran a development team, I soon learned you have to police people who develop the habit of spending long, non-productive hours at work. These people are not the high performers.

    I'm not talking about flow sessions where someone spends twelve or even eighteen hours without realizing the time is passing -- that exploits a natural behavior of brains when they're fully engaged. I'm talking about people frittering away hours dancing around work without doing it. Keeping your ass in the chair longer is a way for a lazy person to convince himself he's a hard worker.

    Nobody can give their best for seventy hours a week, week in and week out. It's a challenge getting peak effort out of people working forty hours a week. Routine long hours are often a sign of lack of management planning and vigilance.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Agreed. Long hours generally tend to work well for light/moderate physical labour or repetitive tasks. Essentially these are jobs where you can turn off your brain and let muscle memory take care of things. Time flies when you are not even there. When performing more cognitive tasks the number of hours you can work continuously goes down drastically with complexity. At the end of the day mental exhaustion sets in, you lose focus and make mistake after mistake.

      Based on hours worked you appear productive but

  • Welcome to life. Itâ(TM)s a tad more difficult than you may have been led to believe.

    As long as theyâ(TM)re ok with diminished buying power due to working less hours, there wonâ(TM)t be any issues.

    But we all know this likely wonâ(TM)t be the case. Thatâ(TM)s where the problems will start.

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