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Article about setting the clock and progress in Spain

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:04 am    Post subject: Article about setting the clock and progress in Spain Reply with quote

In Spain, It Can Be a Pain to Keep Up With the Clock
A crusader argues that Spain lost its bearings when dictator Francisco Franco moved the country's clocks forward in 1942.


David Román
Oct. 24, 2013 10:31 p.m. ET

MADRID—Ignacio Buqueras is winning converts in his decade-old crusade to remove one of the last vestiges of Francisco Franco's dictatorship—the time of the day.

A punctilious entrepreneur, Mr. Buqueras says the bane of Spain is that its clocks are out of whack, dictating notoriously late hours that sap the country of efficiency and make it hard for anyone with a regular job to have time for much else.

After years during which lawmakers wouldn't give Mr. Buqueras the time of day, his ideas are catching on.

Last month his proposal that Spain abandon Central European Time and turn the clocks back an hour won the support of the parliamentary committee that deals with family issues, including the plight of overworked parents. Soon the full Parliament will debate the issue, along with Mr. Buqueras's Quixotic idea that the proposed switch would help coax the country toward an un-Mediterranean 9-to-6 workday.

[photo/caption: Workers take a nap on a roof in Madrid. Associated Press]

Spaniards generally start work at 9 but live the rest of the day on solar time. That means lunch around 2. To survive until then, they take a midmorning snack break, eating into productivity at work. Businesses close during the hottest part of the afternoon for a two- to three-hour siesta break—although fewer and fewer Spaniards actually take naps—and make up for it by staying open until 9. Prime-time television programming doesn't start till 10 p.m. because too few viewers are home before then; night life lingers deep into the wee hours.

"Everything is late in Spain, and this has a detrimental effect on everyone," said Nuria Chinchilla, a business school professor who works with Mr. Buqueras. They cite studies showing that Spaniards rank among the top five populations awake after midnight, sleep nearly an hour less per night than other Europeans do, and doze at work and in school. "We live in a permanent jet lag," Ms. Chinchilla said.

Mr. Buqueras, who is the 71-year-old founder and president of the Association for the Rationalization of Spanish Schedules, insists that cultural norms and warm weather aren't responsible for these quirky rhythms.

[photo/caption: Ignacio Buqueras wants to shift Spanish clocks back an hour. David Román/The Wall Street Journal]

Mr. Buqueras and his cohorts blame Generalissimo Franco, who in a display of solidarity with Adolf Hitler turned Spain's clocks forward an hour during World War II to be in sync with Nazi Germany. (It is less clear why Franco didn't turn the clocks back after Hitler's defeat.)

Until then, and since the International Meridian Conference of 1884 established the world's current time zones, Spain had been living on London's Greenwich Mean Time. That made sense, as the Greenwich meridian slices north to south across the easternmost edge of the Iberian Peninsula, placing Madrid in roughly the same longitude as London.

When its clocks moved forward in 1942, argues Mr. Buqueras, who was born that year, Spain lost its bearings.

If his group gets its way, Spaniards would set their clocks back, get an extra hour of sleep and start work as usual at 9. They would take an earlier, shorter lunch break and finish work no later than 6, gaining at least an additional free hour each evening.

Activists point to evidence that it would work. Iberdrola, the country's largest power utility, switched thousands of employees to an eight-hour workday in 2007 and has reported gains in productivity.

They also point out that Portugal switched back to Greenwich time after concluding that four years on Central European Time in the 1990s resulted in a sleepier populace and higher energy bills.

"Making a better use of time is one of the most important and transcendent issues that Spain must tackle," Mr. Buqueras told lawmakers during a hearing. "We must once again reiterate our request that the government put all Spaniards back in their own solar time."

Mr. Buqueras speaks in rapid, precise, pithy sentences. At his advocacy group, he cuts off speakers who stray from the point. His testimony before the parliamentary committee lasted all of 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

While his campaign is a long shot, he is hardly an outsider. His real-estate and food-industry ventures have afforded him introductions to two prime ministers, numerous cabinet ministers and King Juan Carlos.

He said he launched his campaign for streamlining the workday after concluding that Spaniards couldn't develop a healthy civil society unless they had more time outside work to devote to worthy causes.

To set an example, he convenes his group's 138 members at 9 a.m., an hour earlier than most morning meetings in Spain, and decrees that its executive board meetings finish by 6 p.m.

Funded by corporate donors, his nonprofit group employs four researchers and publicists. One veteran activist, Joseph Collin, joined after moving here from his native Belgium to study for an M.B.A. degree and being frustrated by the hours Spaniards keep. "Most people in Spain don't even know there was a time change in the 1940s," he said. "They think Spain always had these schedules, and it's some sort of tradition."

Mari Carmen Torres, a 49-year-old in Valencia, complains about the noise late at night and hopes Spain will turn the clocks back. She runs a website on insomnia and figures that a quarter of Spaniards suffer from it. "It's very interesting that they're trying to change Spanish schedules," she said, "but it's going to be difficult to change habits."

One ingrained habit is presentismo, the tendency of workers to stay in the office until after the boss leaves, even if they are only feigning productivity. Bureaucratic inertia presents another obstacle: A 6 p.m. lights-out policy imposed a few years ago on some government ministries failed, amid complaints that paperwork was piling up.

"I don't think the government will go ahead with this plan," said Víctor Tapias, a 38-year-old Madrid dentist. "And even if it does, I'm not sure it's going to make a difference." His patients, he explained, don't come between 2 and 4 p.m. and would probably keep seeking appointments into the evening hours.

Mr. Buqueras, meanwhile, says he has little time to waste. "There are only 86,400 seconds in the day," he told a recent visitor. "And this is a fact that applies to all of us equally, you, and me, and the king, and President Obama."
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whenever I visit in Spain, I notice the difference made by not setting the clock to the solar hour. Asturians certainly have a public nightlife that runs very long into the night. Concerts don't start until about 10 pm and can run until 2 am or later. I am surprised, however, that the schedule for office jobs still retains the two hour siesta break in the afternoon. I thought that was being phased out?

I’m a night owl, so I like the schedule being set an hour later. I suspect that the schedule in the cities is different from that in the countryside, isn't it? And don't working class jobs tend to have earlier hours than urban office jobs?


Cuando visito en España, me doy cuenta de la diferencia hecho por no ajustar el reloj a la hora solar. Asturianos ciertamente tienen una vida pública que prolonga hasta las horas muy tarde (o temprano). Los conciertos no empiezan hasta las 10 horas aproximadamente y continúan hasta las 2 am o después. Me sorprende, sin embargo, que el horario de oficina todavía conserva las dos hora de la siesta o descanso por la tarde. Pensaba que estaba siendo eliminado.

Soy un noctámbulo [en inglés, un "búho nocturna"], así que me gusta el horario calibrado una hora más tarde. Sospecho que el horario en las ciudades sea diferente de la de las zonas rurales, ¿es así? Y es verdad que los trabajos de la clase obrero tienden a tener horas más tempranos que los de trabajos de oficina urbanas, ¿no?
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