Jack MA

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has defended his support of a 12-hour working day and six-day working week, calling it a "blessing".

Mr Ma, who is the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, believes the so-called '996' system (9am to 9pm, six days a week) has been central to the country's rapid economic growth over the past few decades.

China has been one of the fastest growing economies over the past 25 years, experiencing annual growth in excess of 10% for much of that period.

The entrepreneur said the Chinese economy would "very likely to lose vitality and impetus" if it scrapped the system. It comes at a time when many entrepreneurs and business leaders in the West are calling for less time spent in work, either through reduced hours or a four-day week.

Jack Ma's reiterated his stance following a string of media debate around the system. But his view was supported by fellow entrepreneur, Richard Liu, the founder of JD.com.

Mr Liu went as far as to say that China's rapid growth had resulted in a large numbers of "slackers".

In an article on his company's working practices, Mr Liu said: "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.

"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!"