Typically, Chinese culture has supported a “work hard” lifestyle in which most Chinese people work from 9am-9pm, 6 days per week. Specifically in the tech industry, many programmers have tended to work substantially more than this each week. This grew up in the early 2000’s as the tech industry in China started to expand.
Independent labor unions have until recently been banned in China. A recent movement focused on empowering the Chinese labor force is gaining traction, and similar to many of the up-and-coming tech companies in the United States, Chinese employees are growing increasingly unhappy with long hours in the office.
With that said, this is a sign of a larger movement in the tech industry market – one that China has historically had a stronghold in. The market in China is no longer conducive to the success of smaller companies starting up as giants like Alibaba are taking over the market. There is a silent protest brewing with many employees where they are “harnessing the power of memes, stickers, and T-shirts” (NYT) in lieu of sit-ins and protests which would gain the negative attention from the Chinese government. There is a “blacklist” of the toughest tech companies to work for that is shared between many Chinese software engineers and programmers.
As millennial’s continue to arm themselves with better educations and understanding of their rights and opportunities around the world, the discontent continues to grow. The middle class in China also continues to grow with almost “70% of the urban population making between $9,000 and $34,000 in 2012″(BBC). Furthermore, the pay structure is rarely consistent and fair, and hard-working employees are not properly compensated for their time spent.
Chinese people are not only expected to work long hours, but also they have little autonomy over their work schedules, priorities, and general tasks. There is a strict structure and expectation set forth that all employees are expected to follow, regardless of their workload or amount of OT they have worked that week.
Companies like Huawei, a well-know cell-phone company similar to an AT&T or T-Mobile in the United States, is known for its “Wolf Culture” where it is every man for themselves. Many employees have also been asked to sign what is called a “striver agreement” that waives the employees rights to receive OT or PTO. The growing discontent and concern from young professionals is further exacerbated by leader like Chinese tycoon Zhou Hongyi, CEO of Qihoo 360, as he recently reconfirmed that a happy work-life balance is impossible. With that said, he did state that the only solution to employee happiness is making them shareholders – maybe there is some hope for future professionals to gain some power and balance.