Spain has been in the wrong time zone for 71 years says the commission’s report.
Spanish politicians are considering changing the country’s time zone after a parliamentary commission issued a report in which it was concluded that such a move would improve Spain’s productivity and quality of life levels.
The commission has called for clocks to be switched back by an hour – to bring Spain into the same time zone, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), as its Iberian peninsula neighbour, Portugal, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The country is, in its current Central European Time (CET) zone, one hour ahead of GMT.
The report affirms that “Spain for more than 71 years has not been in the correct time zone.”
The country, whose capital Madrid is, for example, further west than many British towns and cities, has previously shared the same time zone as the UK, Ireland and Portugal. However, this was changed in 1942, at the height of World War II, when Spain’s leader, General Franco, was sympathetic with Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
The commission’s report
The parliamentary commission’s document, which is now being reviewed by The National Commission for the Rationalisation of Working Hours, says: “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 Organisation recommends.
“All this has a negative effect on productivity, absenteeism, stress, accidents and school drop-out rates.
“Our timetable is determined more by the sun than by the clock. We eat at one o’clock in the afternoon and dine at eight, according to the sun, but the clock says it is three o’clock and 10 o’clock. 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.”
Speaking to reporters, Carmen Quintanilla, the commission’s president, added: “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.”
The back shift of the time zone is, according to most political commentators, expected to win the backing of Spanish politicians.
The Minister for the Economy, Luis de Guindos, has told journalists this week that the proposal will be studied. “Of course, we’re not just going to leave [the report] in the drawer. We’re already looking at the implications that this modification would have - something which is not so simple,” he explained.
However, Spain’s opposition party, the PSOE, which will be abstaining from voting on the issue, described the report’s findings as “lukewarm”. The party’s Equality spokesperson said that the change “would not improve quality of life”, by shifting the work/family balance, at a time when the government is approving and imposing welfare cuts.
‘Una hora menos en Canarias’
So should Spain decide to abandon CET and instead adopt the GMT time zone, what would happen to the Canary Islands, which currently already operate within it?
The president of the Canary Islands’ regional government, Paulino Rivero, has been amongst those expressing concern about the idea. He believes that the islands will lose invaluable and consistent marketing should the change happen.
This view is partly based on the fact that broadcast media across the peninsula, when announcing the time, give an individual name-check to the Canaries. Most cited is the slogan ‘una hora menos en Canarias’ (‘an hour less in the Canaries’) after the hourly mainland time-check on national stations including ‘Los 40 Principales.’
However, Nuria Chincilla, the director of the International Centre for Work and Family at the IESE Business School, who collaborated with the report, says a time zone shift “wouldn’t change things.”
“The Canaries will always be an hour behind because they’re in a more westerly time zone.”