One of the richest men on the planet is being criticized for some recent comments on social media and, for once, it wasn’t Elon Musk.
Jack Ma was once an English teacher, then reached notoriety for scraping together enough cash to start Alibaba.com, a marketplace website that has grown into an e-commerce giant nipping at the heels of Amazon.
Now, with an estimated net worth around $40 billion, Ma has gone down that unadvisable path of suggesting that workers in tech companies and startups will “taste the rewards” of working long hours, and should embrace the Chinese work concept of “996” -- working from 9am to 9pm, six days per week.
A 72 hour work week is not for the faint of heart, but Ma has called his own work-life balance -- or lack therof -- “a huge blessing” and says anyone who pursues work at Alibaba should be prepared to work 12 hour days. And while it’s true this labor isn’t exactly forced, a key entrepreneur in China’s booming tech field setting such a baseline was troubling to many, who called out Ma for failing to acknowledge the needs his workers may have for downtime to care for young children or elderly relatives… or even to care for themselves.
Alibaba has often been considered a rival to Amazon and, unfortunately, comparing the work culture of the two doesn’t cast either in a very empathetic light: a report from Business Insider published earlier this year called working for Amazon "brutal," and said that the warehouse employees interviewed often endured “long hours, physical labor, fears about taking time off, workplace injuries, and the pressure to keep the wheels turning, even when the weather is treacherous.”