For companies like China's Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, "996" was "a kind of blessing", he said. Instead, he endorsed the industry's notorious 996 work culture - that is, 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. "I understand these people, and I could have said something that was "correct.' But we don't lack people saying 'correct" things in the world today, what we lack is truthful words that make people think".
"By following the "996" work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU [Intensive Care Unit]", according to a description posted on the "996.ICU" project page. Programmers in China protested their labour conditions on the online code-sharing community Github in March under the banner 996.
Ma believes that following "996" contributes to the happiness of employees.
The e-commerce entrepreneur was weighing in on a growing debate around work-life balance that has emerged among Chinese tech employees in recent weeks.
Ma, a former English teacher who co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has become one of China's richest people, said he and early employees regularly worked long hours. "If you don't put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?" Ma wrote. "Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don't regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me". "One should not attach the moral labels of "slackers" or "not willing to strive" to employees who are against 996". Companies that try to force such practices are "foolish" and doomed to fail, he said.
Ma's comment followed his remarks on Thursday that working overtime could be a "huge blessing" for young workers who found careers they were dedicated to. "Not only is it inhumane, it's unhealthy and even more unsustainable for long periods - plus workers, relatives and the law do not approve of it", he said.
"A load of nonsense, and didn't even mention whether the company provides overtime compensation for a 996 schedule", wrote one commenter on the Weibo post. On Thursday, a Chinese newspaper published an article claiming that "996" violated the Chinese Labor Law, which states that the weekly working hours must not exceed 40 hours.