Alibaba is equally indicted.
Jack Ma has reiterated the importance of 996.
“996.” The three digits describe a punishing schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week, often with no extra pay.
Pinduoduo, China’s third-largest e-commerce firm, released statements saying it was providing assistance and support to the families of the two employees who died. Shanghai authorities also are reviewing working hours, contracts and other conditions at the company.
- Two employees for an e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo, died within two weeks
- One of them, a 22-year-old woman, collapsed after finishing her shift at 1.30am
- The other worker committed suicide at his home after taking leave from the firm
- A food delivery driver tried to seek unpaid wages by dousing gasoline on himself
- Angered netizens criticise internet industries for forcing their staff to overwork
PUBLISHED: 12:49 GMT, 18 January 2021 | UPDATED: 12:49 GMT, 18 January 2021
The working conditions of China‘s e-commerce industry have come under tight scrutiny after two workers were speculated to have died from overworking and a third one set himself on fire reportedly in protest against unpaid wages.
The former two were employees from Pinduoduo, an online platform known for selling fresh produce at low prices. Online accounts claimed that they had been subjected to ‘long working hours’ and ‘excessive pressure’.
The third individual was a driver for Eleme, an online food delivery service owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. He allegedly doused gasoline and set himself on fire while shouting that he wanted his ‘blood money back’.
China’s internet industries already were known for long, demanding days. With millions of families confined at home, demand surged and employees delivered tons of vegetables, rice, meat, diapers and other supplies, often aboard scooters that exposed them to sub-freezing winter cold.
For white-collar workers in the technology industry, pay is better than in some industries but employees are often expected to work 12 hours a day or more.
The human cost caught public attention after a 22-year-old Pinduoduo employee surnamed Zhang in Urumqi collapsed while walking home from work with colleagues after finishing her shift at 1.30am on December 29. She was pronounced dead at the hospital six hours later.
Within less than two weeks, Ms Zhang’s tragedy was followed by another worker surnamed Tan who committed suicide after taking leave from the firm to return to his hometown.
The deaths of two Pinduoduo workers raised an outcry on social media, with many people suspecting that they were a result of overwork due to the tech sector’s so-called ‘996’ working culture, in which employees often work from 9am to 9pm six days a week.
Companies sometimes pay huge bonuses to some employees, enticing them to work more overtime.