Young China Vs Overwork: Viral Posts Spotlight Ridiculous Job Demands

Unfair employment practices are once again causing outrage on Chinese social media

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1:47 AM HKT, Thu April 29, 2021 1 mins read

A post about unfair employment practices in some Chinese companies has gone viral on social media, sparking yet another wave of online complaints around China’s sometimes toxic work culture.

Screenshots of conversations between recruiters and jobseekers on Linkedin-like recruiting apps are highlighting long work hours, low pay, and no benefits being openly advertized in job postings. Added to that is sometimes offensive speech — even just during the hiring process.

Despite controversy and criticism, some companies are blunt about their borderline (and occasionally flat out) illegal employment practices: “You can either work 996 [from 9:00 AM-9:00 PM 6 days a week] or 007 [24 hours seven days a week],” reads a job description shared in the latest viral post. “Think twice before you apply if you can’t accept the intense work culture.”

In another screenshot, in response to questions about the company’s work schedule of 16 hours a day, the recruiter simply replies: “Are you scared?”

Another recruiter defends their no-weekend policy by asking the interviewee, “What important things you have to do over the weekend?” while implying that young people are not entitled to rest on weekends.


After the original post sharing these screenshots appeared on the Twitter-like platform Weibo, it gained 375,314 likes in 24 hours and generated heated discussions on the site. One commenter offers a pretty direct reply to the “important things” question: “I need the weekend for [the recruiter’s] death, one day is to attend your funeral and the other day is to bury you.”

“This is the result of treating 996 as ‘hardworking’ and violating the labor law as a ‘model’,” reads another highly upvoted comment under the post. “Companies like that only ensure their staff are present in the office but lose all the efficiency and creativity of them. It’ll just become a dead loop.”


This is not the first time that young Chinese have united against such overwork practices. In early 2019, Chinese tech company workers protested on developer community site GitHub amid a series of headlines regarding layoffs at some of China’s tech giants.

The “C’mon workers!” (“加油 打工人!”) meme that made the rounds on social media last year was another example of young people venting frustration around work-life balance, or the lack thereof. The trend of people sharing tips on how to perfect “touching fish” (摸鱼), a slang term for slacking off at work, is another signal that young people are increasingly disillusioned with work.

However, there is a very serious side to such issues as well. The case last December of a 23-year-old employee at ecommerce firm Pinduoduo who collapsed on her way home from work and later died, reportedly due to exhaustion, is one of a number of high-profile scandals that have highlighted the potential effects of overwork.

Cover photo: Thanakrit Gu for RADII

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