The Siesta has been a thing that for most Spanish workers is – or rather should be – a thing from the past: Long lunch breaks and a good nap afterwards are a throwback to the time when working outdoors became unbearable in midday temperatures of 40C or more but have persisted since. Mind you, working on the fields of Andalusia in the blistering sun in the say mid June-mid September period is undoable, on the other hand, there isn’t that much to do in that time of the year. But for the people working in, shops offices and even factories it is different. Airco…. Along with siesta between 14.00 and 17.00 comes the habit of working till 9pm, then socialising until late at night. This all leads to a rather ‘strange’ way of living.
The Spanish three-hour lunch breaks have long been the envy of workers in neighbouring countries, their business meetings often start late and millions of them rarely get to bed till well after midnight. But now Spaniards face growing pressure to give up their siestas, bring their working day into line with the rest of western Europe.
For the times they are changing: A parliamentary commission has called for fundamental reform to traditional working hours and practices as part of Spain’s effort to break out of recession and reduce the chronic unemployment that has dogged its economy for the best part of a decade. The review, by the National Commission for the Rationalisation of Working Hours, is expected to win the backing of a panel of MPs on this month. “We need more flexible working hours, to cut our lunch breaks, to streamline business meetings by setting time limits for them, and to practise and demand punctuality,” says the report. Even though Spaniards put in more hours in total than equivalent workers in Germany, they waste more time and produce far less. They also have on average one hour less sleep per night. “In these difficult and critical times, Spain urgently needs more humane working hours,” the Commission says. “This would raise productivity, lower absenteeism and accidents, as well as reducing drop-out rates from school.”
Of course it is rather a contradiction that workers in neigbhouring countries envy their Spanish counterparts for this ‘inhumane working hours’ and the people here don’t want to get rid off it either. Next to that if Spaniards would become more productive and the economy doesn’t grow, conseqience is unemployment has to rise….
The report also recommends the Spaniards to switch their clocks to the same time zone as Britain instead of Central European Time which – since Madrid is further west than London – means daylight and working hours are out of synch. Spain adopted Berlin time in 1942 during the Second World War, when it was sympathetic to Nazi Germany.
Finally the Commission has told MPs that a shorter, sharper and better timed working day would improve Spaniards’ quality of life, raise the country’s low birth rates and reduce the rate of marriage breakdown…..