Earlier to bed, earlier to rise: Some in Spain want to shift the country's schedule

Pro-efficiency movement seeks to shift the workday, even time zone

Yahoo News

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A man smokes next to empty restaurant tables in central Madrid, Nov. 28, 2013. (Reuters)

Spain has long had the reputation as the European country most likely to stay up past its bedtime. Residents work hard but, as the cliche goes, they play hard, too.

Now, though, in the midst of an economic downturn that has left 26 percent without employment, the country is seeking creative ways to boost its economy. One of the more interesting proposals is also one of the more ambitious — changing Spain's schedule.

Whether such an endeavor would help or even be possible is yet to be seen. If it were to happen, it would represent an unprecedented shift not just with schedules, but with Spain's national identity, the New York Times reports:

Even as people in some countries are preparing for bed, the Spanish evening is usually beginning at 10, with dinner often being served and prime-time television shows starting (and not ending until after 1 a.m.). Surveys show that nearly a quarter of Spain’s population is watching television between midnight and 1 a.m.

A "pro-efficiency movement" wants to change that, and the Spanish government is taking the idea seriously, according to the New York Times.

What would a rescheduled Spain look like? Eat dinner earlier, watch popular television shows earlier and hit the hay earlier. The theory is that doing so would help Spain improve its economic outlook. Under the proposal, Spaniards would also be encouraged to take shorter lunches and even get rid of the traditional post-lunch siesta.

Many workers in Spain are not fans of what they feel is a drawn-out work day, with multiple breaks that limits ability to be efficient, the Times notes. "If workers return to their desks at 4 p.m. (lunch starts at 2), many people say, they end up working well into the evening, especially if the boss takes a long break and then works late."

Speaking with CNN in 2013, Ignacio Buqueras, president of the Association for the Rationalization of Spanish Working Hours, said his organization is "recommending a more flexible work schedule so that the days don't finish any later than 5pm and that at midday, lunch won't last any longer than roughly forty minutes."

Another question is whether Spain will change its time zone. At the start of World War II, the country, then under the leadership of dictator Francisco Franco, changed its time zone in an effort to show its solidarity with Hitler and Nazi Germany, NPR explains

Despite being "geographically in line with Britain, Portugal, and Morocco," Spain shares a timezone with "countries as far east as Poland and Hungary," NPR wrote in 2013.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

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