Working Overtime Becomes Normal in China

  • Most overtime are unpaid in China.
  • Recent graduates still prefer tech giants due to high salary.
  • So far the government leaves it happening.

Everyone knows that Chinese white-collars work overtime, but to what extent? Recently, a study by Zhaopin, one of China’s largest online headhunters, has given us a peek at the truth.

About 81.95% employees work overtime every week, 77.61% of whom do it for free. 24.70% of them even work overtime every day without being paid. The average overtime is 6.45h per week. In 2016, Chinese mobile transportation platform DiDi published a ranking of the companies with the most overtime, the top 3 being JD, Tencent and 58Ganji. The average time of leaving the office at JD was 23:16. DiDi has stopped publishing this ranking, possibly due to PR pressures from such companies. But the situation apparently didn’t improve just because the statistics are no longer disclosed.

Some of the apps for community group buying.

Overtime is closely related to market competitiveness. As China goes through different hot money crazes each year, the overtime “king” changes too: in 2017, as needs for collaboration platforms surged, the CEO of DingTalk, developed by Alibaba, claimed that anyone leaving work before 1 am would be considered disqualified.

In 2018, short videos entered the market, ByteDance and Kuaishou both chose the odd-even schedule: one week working for five days and the next six days, plus the usual overtime on workdays. In 2019, online education seized its opportunity, which led to online teachers talking about the tuition fees with parents until midnight.

In 2020, many Chinese tech giants put their bets on community group buying, the already terrifying 996 working hour system became 9127 (9 a.m. till midnight, 7 days a week) at DiDi, 007 at Meituan and 1127 at Pinduoduo. Late at night, many have thought about quitting, but few takes it to action.

Tech giants are still the most wanted for recent graduates.

Why the paradox of deep hatred towards overtime while not quitting? Money. A study by Offershow gives the salary of tech giants. For recent graduates, most internet companies offer an annual salary of between $31K and $77K, much higher than traditional industries. However, considering unpaid overtime, the hourly pay of these companies is not that impressive.

CEO of JD, with over 320,000 employees.

Chinese tech giants are becoming labor intensive companies with their over 100,000 employees. Most of them changed from the old waterfall model to agile software development, whose production logics transform different departments into workstations on an invisible assembly line. Once the line starts to operate, employees become screws in the eyes of the company: they don’t care if it’s a happy screw, all they need is a functional screw to make the gear rotate 24-7.

On social platforms like Zhihu and Weibo, internet users have been complaining about the extreme overtime situation, which is obviously against the labor law. However, it seems like as long as these tech giants continue to offer enough taxes, the rest is not a priority.


Just another attempt to show a more real China.

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