Two Deaths reopen the Debate on exploitation in Chinese Technology

Two Deaths reopen the Debate on exploitation in Chinese Technology

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Globe Live Media, Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The death of two employees of the e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, allegedly related to stress and overwork, has reopened in China the debate on exploitation in a sector whose leaders defend with pride the endless working hours.

Social media and even the official press have dealt with the controversy profusely, which began on December 29 with the sudden death of a 22-year-old Pinduoduo employee who collapsed when she was returning home with her coworkers.

Shortly thereafter, on January 9, another company employee committed suicide after returning to his hometown just one day after asking his boss for leave without giving any specific reason.

In response, Pinduoduo announced the creation of a working group and the opening of an internal channel to “provide psychological support and consultation services” in emergencies.


Under Chinese law, employees must work 8 hours a day with a maximum of 36 overtime hours each month, which puts the legal limit at about 196 hours per month.

“If we count 11 hours of work each day, the monthly total would rise to 264, 35% more than the legal limit. Pinduoduo employees are often asked to work 300 hours a month, sometimes up to 380 hours, which it exceeds the limits by 53% and 94%, respectively”, explains professor of Communication at the National University of Singapore and an expert in matters related to work in the digital sector.

In a statement, the company denies that it requires these hours and assures that they are “false rumors” driven by a worker who was fired for “repeatedly posting malicious and extreme comments” on social networks.

Although the two deaths have occurred within Pinduoduo, other companies in the sector also dominate the “996” hours: from 9 in the morning to 9 at night, 6 days a week.

The origin of “996” has its roots in the late 90s and early 2000s, when young employees of emerging technology companies “felt they were entrepreneurs,” explains Qiu, so “they worked tirelessly to achieve considerable financial benefits. a couple of years from now “.

However, over time, the now-tech giants became “much bigger, more exploitative, and even despotic,” denying employees the dream of being as wealthy as their bosses.

Ben Oakley
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