Spain may shorten its long work day

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

MADRID:

Spain wants to put an end to its dis­tinc­tive and gru­el­ing work day which hurts pro­duc­tiv­ity-and it may move the coun­try’s clocks back by one hour to the same time zone as Lon­don’s to do so. Labour Min­is­ter Fa­tima Banez vowed Mon­day to seek a “national pact” to bring Spain’s work­ing day into line with the rest of Europe and make it eas­ier to achieve a work-life bal­ance. “We want our work­days to fin­ish at six o’clock and to achieve this we will work to­wards strik­ing a deal with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both com­pa­nies and trade unions,” she told par­lia­ment.

While work­ing hours in Spain vary greatly, a typ­i­cal day runs from 9 am un­til 7 pm or 8 pm-or even later-with a late af­ter­noon lunch break last­ing up to two hours. The long mid­day break was used in the past by many Spa­niards to go home for lunch fol­lowed by a short nap, or si­esta. But sur­veys sug­gest that, at least in cities, peo­ple live so far from their of­fices that few have the time to head home for a snooze.

This sched­ule means many Span­ish work­ers re­turn from lunch at around 5 pm-when their coun­ter­parts in Ger­many and other north­ern Euro­pean coun­tries are al­ready pre­par­ing to go home for the day. To cater to af­ter-work shop­pers small gro­cery stores stay open un­til 9 pm, din­ner is served late and pop­u­lar prime-time tele­vi­sion shows run un­til mid­night. One in four Spa­niards goes to bed af­ter mid­night, ac­cord­ing to the So­ci­o­log­i­cal Re­search Cen­tre (CIS).

Franco changed clocks

Since Spa­niards sleep less than their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts they are less con­cen­trated at work, not as pro­duc­tive and have more ac­ci­dents, said pro­fes­sor Nuria Chin­chilla, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for Work and Fam­ily at Spain’s IESE Busi­ness School. Their sched­ules also take a toll on fam­ily life, added Chin­chilla, a mem­ber of the National Com­mis­sion for the Ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion of Span­ish Sched­ules, a non-profit group cam­paign­ing to change work hours.

“We don’t have enough chil­dren or en­ergy to help them,” she said, in a ref­er­ence to Spain’s low birthrate-the sec­ond low­est in the Euro­pean Union-and the high school dropout rate. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, cul­tural norms are not re­spon­si­ble for Spain’s quirky rhythms, said Jos Collin, a Bel­gian en­tre­pre­neur who car­ried out a study on the is­sue for the com­mis­sion which he pre­sented to par­lia­ment.

In­stead they be­gan in the af­ter­math of Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War when many peo­ple were forced to work two jobs to make ends meet-an of­fi­cial job un­til 3 pm and an­other in the af­ter­noon, he added. Dur­ing the 1930s Spa­niards ate lunch ear­lier, at 1 pm, and had din­ner at 7:30 pm, ac­cord­ing to Jose Luis Casero, a busi­ness­man and the pres­i­dent of the National Com­mis­sion for the Ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion of Span­ish Sched­ules.

Then Gen­eral Francisco Franco in 1940 moved Spain onto Cen­tral Euro­pean Time, in line with Ber­lin and cen­tral Europe, from Green­wich Mean Time (GMT). That means Madrid is an hour ahead of Lon­don even though it is roughly in the same band of lon­gi­tude yet it shares the same time as Warsaw some 2,000 kilo­me­ters fur­ther to the east. As a re­sult the sun ap­pears to rise and set later in Spain, which af­fects peo­ple’s habits.

Banez said Mon­day the gov­ern­ment would study the im­pact of mov­ing Spain back to GMT, a move neigh­bor­ing Por­tu­gal did af­ter it con­cluded that four years on Cen­tral Euro­pean Time in the 1990s re­sulted in a sleepier pop­u­lace and higher elec­tric­ity bills. — AFP

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