China’s richest man expects staff to work 72 hours a week

Dolly Parton complained in her hit song about working nine to five - but should we all be grateful that our employers only expect us to do a 40 hour week? After all, if we worked for Jack Ma, we may be forced to work a 72 hour week.

People were shocked today to learn that Ma, China's richest man, believes his employees should work 9am-9pm, six days a week.

This means that the founder of online marketplace Alibaba wants his workers to be in the office almost half of the 168 hours in a week.

Jack Ma Credit: Getty

The revelation came when Ma was discussing the perceived lack of work-life balance among Chinese high tech workers. The businessman told employees he believed the high working hours were a "huge blessing" for them.

His remarks were posted in the company’s WeChat account and read: "I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing. Many companies and many people don't have the opportunity to work 996. If you don't work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?"

Ma, a former English teacher who founded Alibaba - a multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology - in 1999, went on to explain how when he was young, he regularly worked long hours and thinks it increased his chances of success.

"In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected," he said. "Let me ask everyone, if you don't put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?"

He then referenced the state of tech industry today, where some companies are not making the money they need to stay afloat.

Jack Ma Credit: Getty

"Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don’t regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me," he explained.

The Chinese businessman was a cash-strapped entrepreneur and English teacher when he convinced friends to give him $60,000 (£45,000) to start an e-commerce firm in 1999. Twenty later, Alibaba is a huge force in the tech world and Ma is estimated to be worth $40 billion.

However, activists this month launched a project called 996.ICU on Microsoft’s development platform, GitHub, where tech workers have listed Alibaba as one of the companies with the worst working conditions.

On Thursday, an opinion piece published in a state newspaper argued that the 996 work schedule violated China's Labor Law, which states that average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours a week.

Overworked Credit: Getty

Ma's comments spurred a debate online, with many people asserting that it was crazy to be expected to work 72 hours a week.

Facebook user Bhargav Thantry wrote: "Utter nonsense, becoming a millionaire is not the only thing in life. Living a happy life with proper work life balance at 45 working hours per week is also a successful life. I pity his people for working their lives out." [sic]

Polly Baker didn't approve either, commenting: "He won’t stay this way forever without respecting his employees. That’s what’s wrong today and why people are dropping dead from heart attacks at such young ages." [sic]

Meanwhile, Nadia AkaNadz questioned if Ma's staff were getting paid what they deserved for their hard work, saying: "He’s worth nearly 40 billion US dollars!!!! I wonder how much his staff is getting paid?! 🤔". [sic]

However, there were a few people who seemed to think his request was reasonable, with Natalie Yurksaitis asserting: "Y’all would really get your feelings hurt in the navy 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂".

So, would you be up for working 72 hours a week for Ma? I think I'll stick to my job, thanks.