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996: How One Concept Caused the Death of More than 600,000 Chinese Workers.
I sat down on an empty sofa. There was an odd tranquility in the house and empty chairs around the table. I took out my phone from my pocket and scrolled through Instagram. My eyes hurt from staring and insipidness filled the room. One might assume that I lead a solitary life. I forced myself to scroll down through the contents until the battery died out. I sighed and looked at the clock. It was eleven o’clock at night. I was just waiting for my parents to come home.
Why do the Chinese work so hard? Many Chinese companies use the phrase "996" to describe their workload throughout the week: work from 9am to 9pm, 6 days per week. Analyses of cities have shown that Hong Kong has an average of 50.1 weekly working hours. The average working hours in France are 39.5 hours a week, while in China they are 46 hours per week. Statistics have shown that overwork caused the death of more than 600,000 Chinese workers. Clearly, China's outstanding achievements in their economy have to counterbalance its adverse effects on the staff members.
Two factors contribute to this pervasive hard work: the desire for a false sense of security, and Chinese corporate culture. Modern Chinese citizens are under tremendous pressure from society; young adults sense uncertainty due to the limited resources and competition. This forces them to engage in unostentatious hard work and immerse themselves in an overwhelming workload. A relevant expression, “The result is everything,” has been instilled in their minds since they were young.
With that being said, the Chinese government made a labor law to ensure employees do not work excessively. However, it failed because the law has not been implemented strictly enough to guarantee citizens’ balance between work hours and recess. Moreover, it requires employees to pay 1.5 times more due to overtime work. However, this has not been recognized because the overwork is classified as "voluntary".
What concerns me the most is the health conditions caused by overworking. Mental health and physical health are strongly determined by sleep and workload. 20% of those who worked more than 50 hours (per week) in China feel anxiety. A stressed-out employee who worked late at night once said, "I want to be healthy but they (the employers) stole my time. I want to steal back my time." In China, more than 60% of adults could not get enough sleep, especially those who live in big cities. By now, people should perceive the significance of work-life balance. They could start taking short breaks and spend more time with their families. After all, we are humans, not machines.
聂立高. Overwork Causes Death in China Too - Opinion - Chinadaily.com.cn. www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-10/31/content_15859379.htm. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.
Liang, Lu-Hai. The Psychology behind 'Revenge Bedtime Procrastination'. www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201123-the-psychology-behind-revenge-bedtime-procrastination. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.
Overdoing It: the Cost of China’s Long-Hours Culture. Financial Times, 17 Jan. 2019, www.ft.com/content/d5f01f68-9cbc-11e8-88de-49c908b1f264. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.
Times, Global. Why Do Chinese People Still Work Extra Hard? - Global Times. www.globaltimes.cn/content/1118124.shtml. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.
Alderman, Liz. In France, New Review of 35-Hour Workweek. 27 Nov. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/business/international/france-has-second-thoughts-on-its-35-hour-workweek.html. Accessed 3 Apr. 2021