Spanish prime minister proposes dropping the siesta

The Spanish prime minister reportedly has proposed axing the country’s three-hour midday lunch and nap breaks to bring Spain into the 21st century.

Mariano Rajoy’s announcement comes in response to concerns about Spain’s slow economy and citizens’ quality of life.

Instead of a nine-to-five work day, Spaniards typically arrive at their jobs at 10am, leave around 2pm to eat lunch and take a siesta, or a post-lunch nap, and then resume working until around 8pm. While such a schedule has long been the envy of workers worldwide, these siestas mean Spaniards actually work more total hours than similar workers in other countries -- but are less productive.

Rajoy said at a press conference he would be working with Spain’s various political parties, unions and business to cut out siestas and end the work day at 6pm, The Australian reports.

Siestas became popular back when Spain’s economy was primarily agricultural, and midday summer temperatures would become unbearable for outdoor workers, sometimes climbing to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But today, Spain’s economy is primarily service-based, making the long breaks unnecessary.

Rajoy is also pushing legislation that would turn the clocks back by one hour to bring the country into Greenwich Mean Time.

Spain changed its clocks in 1942 to align with Eastern European time, a shift made by the dictator Francisco Franco to show allegiance to Nazi Germany.

This isn’t the first time Spain has tried to streamline the nation’s work schedule. In 2013, a parliamentary commission called for major labor reforms, including “more flexible working hours, to cut our lunch breaks, to streamline business meetings by setting time limits for them and to practice and demand punctuality,” the commission’s report said, according to The Australian.

It was believed altering the work day would make Spain more competitive in the international economy, raise the country’s birth rates and reduce divorce rates.

Rajoy did not institute the commission’s recommendations at the time, despite the proposals’ nationwide popularity, and some claim he is only now doing so to win votes ahead of a second general election in June.

The country’s other political parties have made similar recommendations.