Spain considers switching to GMT to boost economy
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Spanish lawmakers proposed switching the country to a different time zone on Thursday, jumping back an hour in the hope of improving eating and sleeping habits and making workers more productive.
Switching to British time might bring Spain some family-friendly British customs as well, lawmakers said Thursday in recommending that Spain reverse a World War II change that put them in synch with Nazi Germany.
The parliamentary commission said moving clocks back by one hour could have a profound effect on the eating, sleeping and working habits of Spaniards, whose culture is famed for long lunches, siestas and late shifts at work.
For example, if it gets dark earlier companies would likely readjust work schedules that see Spaniards working well into the evening, they said. That might move Spain closer to the 9-to-5 working tradition more commonly seen in Britain – and hence encourage earlier meals and more family time.
Until the 1940s, Spain was on the same time as Britain and Portugal, which are on roughly the same latitude. But when Nazi-occupied France switched to German time, Spain’s Franco dictatorship followed suit.
“The fact that for more than 71 years Spain has not been in its proper time zone means ... we sleep almost an hour less than the World Health Organization recommends,” the lawmakers wrote. “All this has a negative effect on productivity, absenteeism, stress, accidents and school drop-out rates.”
The Equality Commission’s nonbinding recommendation, which urged commissioning a study of the economic consequences of a time change, will be considered by the full parliament.
The commission’s president, Carmen Quintanilla, said the time change was “a foundation stone” of a series of recommendations aimed at making work and school hours more flexible – and work and family life more compatible.
“We drag out the morning and extend our lunchtime. We lose time and have to work more hours in the afternoon. Eating later, we have to start work later, which means we get off work later,” she said.
Although working hours in Spain vary greatly, the typical working day is divided in two, with lunches sometimes lasting up to two hours. Many workers take this opportunity to dine at home – something health experts believe is beneficial – and this in turn allows them to enjoy the famous Spanish tradition of the siesta.
But as a result, many workers do not get off until after 7 p.m. and shops stay open up to 10 p.m., when bars begin to fill for what are often lengthy nights of socializing.
“Our time schedules have serious effects on the daily life of Spaniards,” said Nuria Chinchilla, a business school executive who helped write the study, adding: “We live in permanent jet lag.”