Living to work: Chinese workers begin to protest

Every discussion about our public services is peppered with references to working conditions.

Those references are invariably negative, suggesting conditions are more demanding and less rewarding than they need to be.

Though hardly a valid, entirely helpful comparison, a glimpse at the working arrangements pushing China to become the world’s dominant economy are as sobering as they are challenging.

After enduring appalling conditions for years, Chinese tech employees are beginning to fight notoriously long hours, known as the ‘996’ schedule of working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

The appropriately-named Ant Financial, an Alibaba affiliate, is listed as having a ‘9106’ schedule — starting at 9am, ending at 10pm, for six days a week.

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, one of the companies included on an exploitation blacklist, called the 996 schedules “a huge blessing” and said workers should consider it an honour, rather than a burden.

It is easy to dismiss this enslavement as irrelevant to us, but, as China becomes an ever more powerful force all around the world, is it wise?

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