World

Spain hopes to shift time zone, shorten work days

MADRID: Spain wants to put an end to its distinctive and gruelling 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 to seek a "national pact" to bring Spain's working day in line with the rest of Europe and make it easier to achieve a work-life balance.

She told Parliament: "We want our work days to finish at six, and to achieve this, we will work towards striking a deal with representatives from both companies and trade unions."

While working hours in Spain vary greatly, a typical day runs from 9am until 7pm or 8pm - 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 offices that few have time to head home for a snooze.

RESUME AT 5PM

This schedule means many Spanish workers return from lunch at around 5pm - when their counterparts in Germany and other northern European countries are already preparing to go home.

To cater to after-work shoppers, small grocery stores stay open until 9pm, dinner is served late and popular prime-time television shows run until midnight.

One in four Spaniards goes to bed after midnight, said Spain's Sociological Research Centre.

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 Prof Chinchilla, who is also a member of the National Commission for the Rationalisation of Spanish Schedules, a non-profit group campaigning to change work hours.- AFP

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