Quarantine in Spain has led to many unprecedented changes, but it has also created the opportunity for an unprecedented sociological experiment, which shines a light on many habits and behaviours of the Spanish population.
THE obligation to remain confined in their homes, with basically no outside contact, has become a strange anthropological and social experiment, which according to experts, has the potential to increase the number of divorces and or worsen the level of conflict between parents and children. However, so far experts have seen a change in the way families organise themselves and the universalisation of telework in the country.
More than half of the Spanish population, 51 per cent has passed onto Phase 1 of the de-escalation plan which under specific conditions and capacity limitations, allows individuals to meet and go to terraces or shops. Going back onto the streets, even with all the accompanying restrictions, has been a breath of fresh air for many residents after facing two months of almost complete isolation.
During these nine intense weeks, individuals who live by themselves have been deprived of physical contact with others, whilst families have gone through the experience of living together 24 hours a day. Two opposite ends of the spectrum.
Quarantine has become the most unexpected sociological experiment of our century and is the reason why so many universities and research groups have taken an interest in studying the consequences of Covid-19 from a different perspective than health.
The professor of Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid and 2019 National Prize winner for Sociology and Political Science, Ines Alberdi, admits that seclusion has been a “very peculiar, strange and interesting” phenomenon.
Although obtaining specific scientific results is still at least a year away, the reflection of this study so far has been able to cover various areas of life such as couple, or parental-child relationships, and the difficult experience of single-parent families, and the practice of telework since quarantine began.
Another interesting perspective about quarantine has been illuminated by Rosa Maria Frasquet, a member of the Institut Català d’Antropologia (ICA) and founder of the association L’Etnogràfica, Anthropology for Social Transformation. She considers that the pandemic has aggravated the gender gap in terms of distributing domestic and household work and in some circumstances, it has reinforced certain dynamics already present in families.
Frasquet has found that, “women have stayed at home looking after children, whilst men have taken on tasks such as going shopping, which can be related to men acting as the role of provider and linked to traditional masculinity, which could be understood as an act of risk when exposed to contagion, but also gives the male the privilege of going outside.”
This specialist in the anthropology of family evolutions, however, sees a positive side: the fact that these dynamics have become visible may lead to the reopening of a debate in society and in the family sphere, which can generates the opportunity for household tasks to be reorganised in a more equitable manner.
Rocío García Torres, a clinical psychologist specialised in family therapy, points to what has been seen in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic began, and anticipates an increase in divorces in Spain because “being in a forced state of coexistence, in many cases, has generated the stress of having to face a marriage which was not always going well.”
Torres considers that isolation has shown that we live in “a very individualistic society” and that having “been deprived of liberty… not being able to go out to work has forced us to organise ourselves with our children” it has also shown that “if there is no certain philosophy within the couple, what is generated is a heightened sense of disagreement, distance and confrontation.”
Confinement has also opened the doors to the universalisation of working from home, which, as the experts consulted affirm, can become a tool for reconciliation or, on the contrary, a way of overexploiting labour.
A survey promoted by Bain & Company consultancy, carried out between May 1 and May 6 to over 1,000 individuals has shown some interesting results.
Data reveals that 51 per cent of survey respondents prefer teleworking, compared to 25 per cent who prefer face-to-face modality, and 68 per cent have proven that they are equally or more productive working from home. However, four out of 10 confess that their working day has lengthened since working remotely.