COVID-19 measures have a direct impact on the organization of time in everyday life and put time use policies more than ever on the institutional agenda. This situation becomes an opportunity to rethink the current time schedules, in terms of well-being, health, efficiency and equality.
So, measures taken to cope with the effects of the pandemic, such as teleworking, avoiding unnecessary displacements, or having dinner earlier, appeal to key aspects of work and day-to-day time organization, and paradoxically help to move forward towards healthier schedules. As Eurofund data show, most European workers are in favor of these measures, which introduce more flexibility.
This first edition of Time Use Week has combined a global and local approach so as to address challenges in daily life organization.
Marta Junqué, co-coordinator of the Barcelona Time Use Initiative (BTUI), points out that “It is clear that the organization of time and working conditions have once again been placed at the center of the political and social agenda since the ‘arrival of the pandemic’”. Regarding the Time Use Week, she emphasizes that “in terms of content and conclusions, it allows us to begin to define the bases for a global agenda in time use policies”. She also highlights “the quality and diversity of speakers and participants, as more than 500 people have registered and more than 150 people from all over the world were connected every day.”
Meritxell Budó, Minister of the Presidency of the Catalan Government, has declared in the closing event that “we live in turbulent times”, but “the Covid-19 pandemic and the health, social and economic emergency situation we are in has offered us an opportunity”. In other words, “we have found that we can better distribute our time and that Governments have a clear social responsibility, that is to improve the quality of life through time policies.”
Budó stated that “in Catalonia, time reform is a country challenge. Thanks to the institutional and civil society efforts, time-use policies have become a part of the current Catalan political agenda.” In this context, she has stressed that in the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya, in line with policies implemented throughout Europe, “we are committed to the goal of facilitating people’s lives through a more efficient, egalitarian and healthy organization of time” And she has stated: “We want to achieve a challenge: to make Barcelona and Catalonia the hub of international reference for the different topics related with time use”
Xavier Marcé, Councillor of Tourism and Creative Industries by the Barcelona City Council, has expressed that “from the Barcelona City Council we are firmly convinced that a better use of our time is the best way to live and work in harmony. We have been convinced of this for many years as promoters of initiatives such as the City Time Pact, and also now in these difficult times of pandemic.” He also remarked that “we have seen how technology can be an ally life-work balance, but we must also work on the issue together with other public and private bodies, as we are doing in this meeting, where we all join with the same goal” “We must overcome how we have worked in the past, in terms of time, and create new dynamics in its use, more equitable, productive, efficient and rewarding, both for people and for organizations ”
The 5 main proposals highlighted from this week’s debates are::
LAW AND SOCIAL PACT: It is necessary to have a comprehensive law on time use policies at the State Level, a legislation that will pioneer time reform at a global level, and which would help to synchronize the schedules of work, commercial, educational, cultural, audiovisual under the basis of a broad social pact with the most representative business and trade unions organizations as well as the different institutional levels. European Union and United Nations must play a key role to put the right to time in the global agenda and make recommendations.
CLOCK CHANGE: Increase the European debate on the suitability of going back to natural time. The clock change will be maintained, despite the European Union’s agreement to abolish it initially in 2019 and extended until sprint 2021. Up to date, there is no agreement regarding the issue at Member State or EU Council level. An agreement should be reached between states and this decision should be placed among the priorities of the European agenda, by prioritizing the health of European citizens. Experts, time use activists and institutions have called for joint efforts at the European level to abolish the DST clock change and return to natural time.
MUNICIPALITIES AS A MOTOR FOR ADVANCE: There is a great consensus among European municipalities to give a new impulse to the European Network of Cities for Time Use, which leads to incorporate time use policies in the municipalities agenda, to foster a broader cooperation between municipalities and to enable seeking more support and resources from supralocal and global institutions. It is necessary to promote the city councils’ good practises, and to share those of the companies that have incorporated measures to promote more rational and healthy schedules and practices..
TIME USE POLICIES ARE A WAY TO ACHIEVE THE 2030 AGENDA: Time policies and the Sustainable Development Goals are deeply interrelated. Without implementing time policies, the goals of the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved. Therefore, it is proposed to link the efforts of public time use policies as is the case with time offices in larger populations of 20,000 inhabitants in France, the time pacts promoted in Catalonia or the Pact for the Hourly Reform itself with its transition plan “Better Living Plan” with the Sustainable Development Goals.
MORE INVESTMENT AND CONTINUITY IN TIME USE DATA. The European scientific community, and especially the Catalan one, has made a call for more data on the use of time and with greater continuity in order to better compare trends in the use of time in everyday life and in the work environment and to be able to make more recommendations for public policies.
Towards the International Time Use 2021
Next year, from 25 to 31 October, the International Time Use Week 2021 will take place in Barcelona. It will include the annual conference of the International Association Time Use Research (IATUR), which will gather 300 people from universities and research centers around the world, among many other activities. The ITUW2021 will also include the signature of the “Barcelona Declaration on Time Use in the Global Agenda”. It aims at becoming an instrument for promoting joint work with the United Nations and the European Union towards recognizing the right to time as a citizenship’s right.
The organizers, Government of Catalonia, Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, the Barcelona Provincial Council and Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society, expect the Time Use Week 2021 to become a meeting hub for all those interested on time use and time use public policies.