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The siesta could be scrapped

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suggests that Spain should shorten the working day by saying adios to the siesta. In addition he wants to change the time zone to Western European Time.

Siesta. Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Siesta. Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

The Siesta is, as you most probably know, a three-hour break at midday which usually lasts from about 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. As a result the normal work day for most employees ends at 8 p.m. Rajoy wants the workdays for most employees to end at 6 p.m.

The reason is to improve the lives of workers and to provide faster economic growth. Statistics show that Spaniards spend more hours at work than other Europeans, but are less productive.

The Spanish siesta has existed for centuries, long before the industrial revolution. When Spain was a farming community, the long break was much needed for the workers to protect themselves against the hottest hours when working in the fields.

Scrapping the Siesta makes Spain more aligned with companies in other European countries, but will also affect everyday life. For example football matches usually start at 8:30 p.m. during the working week,  but they could start a few hours earlier.

Many modern Spaniards from across the political spectrum have been fighting to get rid of the siesta to make the workday comparable with other European countries, so there should not be any political fight about this.

In addition to removing the Siesta, Rajoy also suggests that Spain should change the timezone to Western European Time (WET) which is the same time zone as the UK, Ireland, Portugal and the Canary Islands. This agrees better with Spain’s geographical position and will also give the country a common time zone. Spain used to have Western European time before World War II, but Franco ordered that the clock should be equated with Nazi Germany. Portugal also joined the same time zone as Germany during World War II, but they changed it back again after the war.

The Siesta has a long history. This is a painting by Gustave Courbet, 1844.

The Siesta has a long history. This is a painting by Gustave Courbet, 1844.