Alibaba co-founder defends controversial 12-hour working days and calls overtime a 'huge blessing'

Sebastian McCarthy
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China International Import Expo (CIIE) - Day One
Jack Ma was named China's richest man in October last year (Source: Getty)

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma sparked controversy this afternoon after defending the 12-hour working day.

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The billionaire tycoon, who has a personal wealth estimated at roughly $40bn (£30bn), has doubled down on his view in favour of the “996 system”, which refers to a working schedule of 9am to 9pm for six days a week.

In remarks posted on Alibaba’s WeChat account, the Chinese entrepreneur added that young people should see the opportunity to work overtime as a "huge blessing".

The comments come amid a growing debate in China over the work-life balance for its tech employees.

Last week the boss of, which has recently announced job cuts, fuelled controversy on the debate by saying: "JD in the last four, five years has not made any eliminations, so the number of staff has expanded rapidly, the number of people giving orders has grown and grown, while the those who are working have fallen.

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"Instead, the number of slackers has rapidly grown! If this carries on, JD will have no hope! And the company will only be heartlessly kicked out of the market! Slackers are not my brothers!"

In October 2018 Ma was named as the richest man in China for the second time in recent years after his wealth rose more than a third to $39bn.

Ma last topped the Hurun rich list in 2014 but has regained his position at the top after a new round of investment in his payments firm Ant Financial, which was valued at $150bn.

The 54-year-old’s wealth has increased by 35 per cent since the previous year, according to the list, just weeks after announcing his planned retirement from online retail giant Alibaba.