Chinese Church Voices

The 996 Work Culture

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


China is a busy place. That’s admittedly an understatement, especially to people who have traveled to or lived in China’s urban areas. As China’s economy has grown, demands on the labor force have grown as well. Today it is almost expected that workers will work long hours and often six days a week. China’s hectic and fast-paced work culture has earned the unflattering moniker “996.” To help readers understand 996 work culture, Li Lujun in the TSPM journal Tianfeng unravels the 996 work schedule and shares how Christians ought to respond.

Let’s Talk about “996”

Recently, articles about the “996” work schedule are all over WeChat moments. The so-called “996” work schedule means arriving at work at 9:00 am every day and working until 9:00 pm, six days a week. Some people registered a website domain named “996.ICU” to complain about the “work a 996 [schedule], sick in the ICU” life. Some people even mockingly say, “work the hardest overtime, live the most expensive ICU.” Whether the usual working hours are 996, 955 (9 to 5, working five days a week) or 007 (online 24 hours a day, working 7 days a week, resting only on rotations), many people have made cynical and bitter complaints on social network platforms and popular media platforms. Even industry leaders, have spoken out about it.

Indeed, people who strive in the workplace often find their private lives disrupted by overtime work, or even suffer from health hazards due to overwork. Perhaps a few years ago, working overtime was only an occasional incident. However, with the rapid development of the economy today, 996 has slowly become the norm in some industries. What on earth should we make of 996 today?

When it comes to work, some people leave home and pursue the career of their dreams, some work for the company and the boss to make a living, and some opt for stability and security.   Therefore, when the internet giants use “ambition, dream, endeavor” and other keywords in connection with 996, it is like a stone stirring up a thousand waves causing those entry-level workers, who are suffering to make their living, inextricable from their busy work load and almost suffocated from it, to regularly express their feelings of injustice. Some people have said, “You can’t force 996. We should set out working hours and remuneration according to labor laws and give rewards when we work overtime.” These complaints stem from the lack of reasonable compensation for the 996 work schedule. Reasonable work compensation is expected and shows respect to every worker by rewarding them according to their work.

Others continue to cry, “All work and no life! Even if employees are rewarded with high salaries, how can there be happiness under such conditions?” Is 996 a passion of striving for happiness or is it exploitation and oppression? Each side sticks to its own story. How can we release the tension?

The Bible describes a beautiful employment relationship. Ephesians 6:5-9 says:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

The Bible reminds us that we as employees should be responsible, honest, and faithful in our work, not perfunctory or superficial. As Christians, we are not only to work hard for our employers, but also to work for the Lord, and the Lord remembers our intentions. Meanwhile, as employers, we should be fair and impartial, and we should not exploit or cheat people, because our heavenly Father is not partial to anyone.

What then should Christians do with their work? Conscientious work is an expression of the Christian’s fear of God and a testimony to a good life. The Bible says, “from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:24) Dutiful pastors and preachers in the church are our examples, they often work more than 996 or even 007. However, because of their response and commitment to the divine calling, they are filled with joy and satisfaction while responding to that choice and decision with a conscientious, positive attitude!

Surly, in addition to dedicated work, we should also take breaks. The Bible also teaches us to “be still, and know that I am God” (cf. Psalm 46:10), to return to God’s embrace, to acknowledge our weaknesses, and to seek renewed strength. When we truly understand the meaning of rest, we will be able to experience the long and deep love of God and receive the joy of satisfaction. We hope that we will keep our zeal and keep striving for excellence at work while we also learn to take a break, let go and let God renew our strength in his quietness and restfulness.

Every worker is ordinary and yet remarkable, they are all worthy of respect. Work sustains our daily lives and promotes the social economy. I pray that the Lord will help us to perform well at our jobs today. I also hope that everyone will treat the worker, body and mind, with real kindness and dignity, that they may have a greater sense of achievement, happiness, and security to live and work.

Original Article: 也谈“996” by Tiangfeng (WeChat ID: ccctspm_tianfeng)

Image credit: Nuno Alberto on Unsplash.
ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

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