Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Spain turning back the clock on siestas

By Isa Soares and Oliver Joy, CNN
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • TIme zone proposal is the latest move by Spain to improve productivity and align working hours with rest of Europe
  • Spanish unemployment in the third-quarter improved slightly to 25.98% compared with 26.26% in Q2 of 2013
  • Youth unemployment, which remains over 50%, poses a major problem for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government

(CNN) -- As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes -- the siesta -- is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.

Three-hour lunches and catnaps, long the envy of Spain's European neighbors, could soon be a thing of the past.

Last month a parliamentary commission called for the government to turn back the country's clocks by an hour and introduce regular working hours from 9am to 5pm.

Read more: IMF's Lagarde warns against 'complacent' Europe

With the economy contracting and unemployment among the highest in Europe, the proposal is the latest move by the embattled Mediterranean nation to spur growth and create jobs in the wake of a four-year long eurozone debt crisis.

A spokesperson for the Spanish economy ministry said the government is looking at the proposal for a time zone change and "more rational working hours" following the Commission's study.

The move would potentially see Spain revert to Greenwich Mean Time, after Spain's long-time dictator Franco moved the country's clocks on to Central European Time to align with Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Read more: A history of defaulting on debt

Speaking with CNN, Ignacio Buqueras, president of the Association for the Rationalization of Spanish Working Hours, said: "For 71 years we have been on the wrong clock. We need a clock that is more convenient."

He added: "We are also 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."

One business that is trialling a new working day is Studio Banana, a Madrid-based design firm, where workers have found a novel way to incorporate breaks, siestas and lunch into a normal working day.

Using an 'Ostrichpillow' -- a full-head pillow that allows users to sleep anywhere -- employees at Studio Banana take short power naps and return to work fresh.

Ali Ganjavian, co-creator of Ostrich Pillow, said: "It came about because we were spending a lot of time working in the studios so we thought to ourselves 'why don't we create a product that allows us to sleep anywhere.'"

Read more: Europe feeling the economic winds of change

Spain's unemployment crisis

The Commission's proposal to shift time zones is part of an effort to improve the country's productivity and align Spain's working hours with other European partners.

But while the economic picture in Spain may look bleak, unemployment figures for the third-quarter improved slightly to 25.98% compared with 26.26% in the second three months of 2013, according to the country's National Institute of Statistics.

Read more: Spanish exports are bright spark for economy

However, youth unemployment, which remains over 50%, still poses a major problem for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government as many young people flee abroad in search of work.

Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, the Spanish government's high commissioner for Brand Spain, told CNN that it will take "many years" for the jobless rate to drop to single digits.

"My estimate is something like five years before figures go below 10%," Monteros said, "[No one has a] magic solution."

Since the eurozone crisis began in 2009, policymakers have called on troubled nations to reform labor markets and increase flexibility, making it easier for employers to hire and fire employees.

Monteros believes Spain has to become a "business friendly" country and argues that if the government wants the country to return to growth taxes must be reduced.

"The labor reform has been an asset," he said, "because most multinational companies that compare the situation in Europe are ranking Spain as the first one in terms of flexibility and cost of labor."

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
updated 11:31 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
updated 11:30 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
updated 4:23 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
updated 2:03 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
updated 6:16 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
updated 1:41 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
updated 12:17 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.
ADVERTISEMENT