Since 12 October a spreadsheet, accessible via the Tencent QQ messenger platform has been making waves across the Chinese social networks. Along the columns are detailed the names of companies, their location, their precise working hours with clocking in and out times, the number of days worked, the length meal breaks, and available rest days, etc. In short, it provides a comprehensive overview of work patterns with data that has been populated in real time on an anonymous basis by Chinese tech industry employees, who continue to denounce excessive and often unpaid working hours. Racking up more than a thousand entries in a just the first few hours and with more than 6,400 contributions to date, the spreadsheet has been widely communicated across the Microsoft-owned coder platform GitHub. By 14 October a mini website called #Workerlivesmatter was set up to better coordinate the movement. Viewed by millions of users, the spreadsheet denouncing the infamous ‘996’ system (working from 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening, 6 days a week) has also been the subject of many exchanges on several dozen WeChat discussion groups, (Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp). It was on GitHub that this discontent with the ‘996’ system first emerged in March 2019, while it was not until summer 2020, and as we reported at the time, that the Chinese government openly condemned these practices as running contrary to labour laws. Clearly however, even in the largest Chinese tech companies, and particularly at Pinduoduo and JD.com, the message has still not been fully received.
China: the war against overworking laid bare on a massive spreadsheet
Planet Labor, 21 October 2021, n°12751 - www.planetlabor.com