Students Debate China’s ‘996’ Overtime Work Culture

“Should the overtime work culture represented by ‘996’ be promoted or not?” This question has been up for major debate throughout China over the last year. Then, on Saturday, Oct 19th, the debate came to our very own campus. In recent times 996, once again has become a hot topic in the public. 996 working system refers to work starts at 9 a.m. in the morning and ends at 9 p.m. for 6 days a week, which has been considered dominant working culture in many tech companies. Continuing overtime culture of Chinese tech companies is a violation of People’s Republic of China labor law.

The event was part of “Talking Over The Past And The Present, Learning Widely From Others Strong Points” (Ancient and Modern Intelligence) – The Seventh Shenzhen College Students Debate Invitational Tournament. The Nanyan Debate Team had their first battle of the year with the Shenzhen University Debate Team.

The debating competition is in two versions of For and Against as follows

For: “How can you achieve all the success you want without outputting the effort and time of others… Can you just sit idle and enjoy the fruits of others’ work?”

Against: “The 996 work-day system is an abnormal system, which has nothing to do with positive energy such as “diligence” and “struggle.”

In this competition, Peking University Nanyan Debate Team upheld the perspective of supporting overtime working culture. In light of the fact of increasingly difficult challenges of industrial upgrading and international competition, it is believed that overtime culture represented by 996 needs to be promoted. The so-called promotion is not to force employees to work overtime with the system, but to create a cultural atmosphere that encourages overtime. This promotes the employees to shape a decent feeling of overtime and take good safeguard measures to help employees to make contributions to economic development with a more positive attitude.

However, the other side strongly criticizes such “extra-legal justice,” which means that the spirit of working hard should be promoted and advocated, but the 996 working system cultivates a bad general mood of society – if you don’t work overtime, you are not trying hard. Clearly, this working system creates negative consequences for people at their job, like having no time to spend with their family and children. Furthermore, such an atmosphere is a disguised form of squeezing the value of employees’ surplus labor.

In the fierce debating competition, Peking University won the first game and earned the judges praise. One judge commented, “Starting from a harsh ground, you nicely nailed it to convince us that a happy life is the result of hard work, and a culture of hard work should be built in little by little. Therefore, such culture should be promoted.” The judges also explained they were glad to see good teamwork shown in our side.

Congratulations to all the debaters and Nanyan Debate Team!

Congratulations on the victory in the first battle!

We wish you continued success in the coming debate competitions!

Written by Rosy Wu

Edited by Hari Vamsi


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