Software developers for Chinese tech industry detail tough working conditions, long working hours

It’s no secret that work culture in many Chinese companies is completely out of the norm for employees, with many subjected to long working hours. A new protest has shed some more light on such working conditions, particularly for Chinese software developers.

A protest named WorkingTime has allowed workers to contribute to a spreadsheet that details working conditions for hundreds of companies. Developers looking for a job will benefit from the clarity presented by the project in terms of how many hours of work are expected for certain tech firms.

“The opacity of working hours in some companies, working time is a very important factor in choosing an offer,” a founder of the project stated on a Chinese Q&A site.

The identity of those behind WorkingTime remains a mystery, but their efforts have had a considerable impact among workers. It’s already received over 10 million views, which has culminated in thousands of entries.

The spreadsheet logs how many hours employees work within a week. Details pertaining to breaks, as well as job descriptions are also included. While some confirm a workweek of around 40 hours — with perks like subsidized housing — others have revealed long working hours remain at several companies.

Those who have contributed to WorkingTime are employees of some of China’s largest technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and Bytedance. Global conglomerates are included in the project as well like Dyson, Intel and IBM.

“I often go on business trips. I have been on business for half of a month. I leave work after 10 o’clock every night at the customer’s site. I have to work overtime on weekends. The entire department has worked for two years except for the leaders,” wrote one employee.

“Mandatory to keep people on duty every night, compulsory all staff to work overtime every Saturday, no overtime pay, working hours over 10 hours,” another individual added. One worker also states that if the daily workload cannot be completed at his firm, overtime at home is required.

In China, many businesses require 72-hour working weeks from their workforces. The schedule, otherwise billed as “996,” has made a work culture where employees work from 9am to 9pm for six days a week commonplace. To make matters worse, these long working hours do not contain overtime payments.

A Chinese court recently ruled that this arrangement is illegal; it limited overtime to 36 hours per month with compensation required for anyone working extra hours. However, as independent labour unions are impermissible in the region, the “996” practice continues due to limited oversight.

South Korea is also notorious for similar tough working conditions. To combat a culture of working overtime, the country enacted a “shutdown initiative” that caps the amount of hours government employees are expected to work.

Japan is another country that is no stranger to excessive working hours. A Microsoft experiment for its employees in Japan, meanwhile, resulted in a productivity boost of 40 percent thanks to a four-day workweek.