Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : SHAN RENPING Page No. : NA


Zhang Moufei, a 22-year-old girl from Pinduoduo, suddenly fainted and died on the way home after getting off work late at night. This caused a strong response on the Internet. The exact cause of her sudden death requires authoritative medical conclusions, but the public’s resistance and condemnation of excessive overtime work has become the main concern on the Internet.

We hope that all companies and institutions will attach high importance to this public concern, take necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of employees and not seek to base their achievements on excessive overtime work put in by employees. The country’s labor laws must also be enforced more strictly in deference to this trend in public opinion.

The excessive working hours of Internet company employees are well known. Two years ago, there was a condemnation of “996” on the Internet, but this problem has not really been alleviated because of the fierce competition among Internet companies and because employees’ competition in careers is also very intense. The above-mentioned “double pressure” has greatly squeezed the workers’ space to defend their right not to work overtime or to work less overtime, and a lot of public discussions have reluctantly turned to the “equity principle” that overtime pay needs to be paid in full.

Objectively speaking, frequent overtime work is not only a matter of Internet companies, but also a lot of such industries in China. It is understood that overtime is also extremely common in the police force, as well as in other civil services, and that they are usually not paid overtime, or only very little overtime. Some local and departmental leaders take this for granted, and some managers even talk with pride about how their departments work “5+2, day and night”.

In Chinese society, there is a traditional value of “overtime is honorable”, and many stories of positive people include long hours of overtime and working late into the night. From organizations to enterprises, leaders and managers often appreciate employees who work overtime on their own initiative, and this value is very deep in Chinese society.

In the past, China was very backward, and the first priority was to get rid of poverty, so the above values were naturally formed. But after the gradual formation of a large urban middle class, this value orientation is quietly changing among the people, and the importance of people’s right to rest is gradually strengthened. The online criticism of “996” is actually a clear signal of this change.

Today, people’s demands are still diverse, and there are still many people who are willing to “work hard” in exchange for a better life, but it is crumbling as a collective value. More and more young people are looking for a balance between working hard and enjoying life, …………..

We believe that this is a major trend, and the further China moves forward and the higher the GDP per capita, the more room there will be for such values. In addition, the treatment of labor is becoming a new direction of international attention focused on China, a condition often mentioned by outsiders for deep economic cooperation with China. I am afraid that the whole Chinese society has to adjust its concept on the issue of overtime work.

China’s economic and social development can no longer rely too much on people working extra long hours as a driving force. We need to work on improving labor efficiency, on squeezing out formalism and useless work, on finding positive elements to boost development from the more rest people want to have, and on aligning development with the protection of people’s rights as highly as possible.

Chinese people who often travel abroad will find that in developed societies, it is quite difficult to get accompanying drivers and interpreters to work overtime, often not even if they are paid more. I’m afraid this can not simply be regarded as their being “lazy”.

Our economic and social development needs to be explored towards a gradual reduction in the cost for the whole population. After all, China is still not a rich country, and the low-income group is still very large. Overtime work is inevitable in some positions, and the spirit of hardship must not be missing in our society. In particular, we cannot abandon the encouragement of the spirit of dedication, and in some key sectors, it is vital to let such a spirit continue to flourish. What we are trying to say is that we need to keep adjusting as our society progresses and keep achieving a new balance.

Therefore, the strong reaction to the sudden death of the girl in Pinduoduo, the resistance to “996” on the Internet, deserves to be considered by society as a whole, and to let this thinking seep rationally into the rhythm of social progress.

(The author is a commentator for Global Times)

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