China’s richest man faced severe backlash this week for praising something that’s almost a way of life in India.
On April 14, the Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma wrote a lengthy blog post on the Chinese social media site Weibo praising the country’s infamous 996 work culture, which refers to working 12 hours a day (9 am to 9 pm) and six days a week. “If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem. If you don’t like (your work), every minute is torture,” Ma said. “I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing…How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?”
Some prominent business leaders in India have, however, criticised Ma’s remarks:
However, to working class Indians, used to office burnouts, Ma’s comments would seem anything but offensive.
Employees at Indian firms work far longer than those in any other countries. In Mumbai, for instance, employees work 3,315 hours a year, which is among the highest in the world, according to a study by the Swiss investment bank UBS, released in June last year. In comparison, in the Chinese capital city Beijing, a full-time employee works for an average of 2,096 hours per year.
Overworked or free labour?
Besides Mumbai, India’s capital city New Delhi also ranks high in a list of 77 cities where people clock the most number of hours per year, as per the UBS report.
But Indians don’t mind putting in the extra hours as long as they’re paid for it. Over 50% of Indians in a survey by US-based workforce management firm Kronos, released last September, said they are happy working overtime if paid for it.
Besides working long hours, Indians also tend to go without taking any vacations.
Up to 75% of Indians feel vacation-deprived, which is the highest in the world, followed by South Korea (72%) and Hong Kong (69%), the 2018 Vacation Deprivation Study conducted by the global travel company Expedia showed. ”Indian workers also do not take their vacation days and rank five to leave their vacations unused after Japan, Italy, Australia, New Zealand,” the report said.
Ma, for one, would be impressed.
This article first appeared on Quartz.