NEW plans to axe the famous three-hour siesta in Spain have been proposed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who suggests the working day should end at 6pm and Spain should come in line with its European counterparts.
Although plans of this nature have been discussed before, this topic is highly controversial in Spain where the siesta is a way of life to many.
At present, workers currently start at about 9am and stay in the office until about 8pm – with a three hour siesta breaking up the day at lunchtime.
The country’s Prime Minister says he wants the working day to end at 6pm, bringing an end to the traditional three-hour midday break.
He said: “I will find a consensus to make sure the working day ends at 6pm.”
Many believe that the move may be a bid to attract support ahead of the country’s June elections as the change would be popular among many Spaniards who would like to see an end to the long working day, but for some this would be unthinkable and a change to Spanish culture.
The siesta is a cultural frame for the Spanish day and a way of life. Between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, many shops and businesses close down because around 2pm, the heat temperature reaches its peak and it is simply too hot to be outside during the summer months. Therefore people take a siesta to wait indoors until the heat subsides.
La siesta literally translates as a short nap and is usually between 20-45 minutes. However, this definition is far from the three-hour break taken in the middle of the working day. Siesta has spread all over Spain, South America, the Middle East, the Philippines, and North Africa.
Because the working day is broken up, the modern siesta is the time working people go home and spend time with their family or friends, and not necessarily to just take a nap. Often, families will use it as a time to have a long lunch and this is now integral to Spanish values.
There are supposed health benefits too. Studies have shown that a siesta has been associated with a 37 per cent reduction in coronary mortality, possibly due to cardiovascular stress being reduced by a daytime sleep. Apart from the benefits, the siesta is firmly established in the Spanish psyche and is a habit that may be difficult to break. The siesta is one of the strongest Spanish traditions and an easy one for most expats to embrace.
Three years ago a Spanish parliamentary commission issued a report examining the issue.
The commission said: “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.”
The commission’s report suggested that reducing the length of time of the siesta would boost the quality of life in Spain and even reduce marriage breakdowns.