The right to time, a key element to tackle gender inequalities

Although European legislation equates the rights of women and men, gender equality on how we use our time is still far from becoming a reality.

We must become aware of the right to time as an element for a more healthy, equalitarian and sustainable society.

Ariadna Güell and Marta Junqué, co-coordinators of Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society

Being a woman, bisexual, from working class and laic are biological, social and cultural categories that place each of us within different domination and oppression systems that take place simultaneously and overlap. Being part of one of these categories means to have different access to and opportunities for several rights (housing, education, political participation, etc.) and entails an inequal distribution of resources, such as money or time.

Time is one of these rights that has an uneven Distribution within our society. If we want to move towards a fairer, more equal and more healthy society, we need to pursue the right to one’s own time, especially for those social groups that have been deprived from it, such as women. As the famous philosopher and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, said, the right to time is a way of enjoying it individually and fighting for it collectively.

Women are one of the groups more affected by the inequal Distribution of time, especially on the care area. To illustrate, let us show some figures. One-third of employed women were working part time (30%) in the EU in 2018, nearly four times the rate for men (8%) (Eurostat). One factor influencing this is that we dedicate more time to housework, cooking, and childcare. In the EU in 2016, 79 % of women cooked and/or did housework daily, compared with 34 % of men. The difference is lower for childcare but still significant (92% of women did it daily against 68% of men). Likewise, women consistently report worst self-perceived health than men.

On last years a lot has been done on conciliation policies across Europe but is still not enough. A recent study from two Scandinavian universities reports that even with strong gender equality and co-responsibility policies, increasing leaves and financial support for childcare, there are still significant differences between women and men.

To end this inequality, a cultural change is needed, and we must recognize and become aware of the right to one’s own time and the implications it has in our health. It can be an element of inequality that can help us advance towards real equality and a fairer society.

We must (re)take ownership of our time. Understand time organization and distribution as a citizen’s right that allows to have a healthier life, will allow us to improve our quality of life.

There is a growing number of organizations that support a new time culture, more efficient, more respectful with people and that brings better results, which at the end should lead us to a more sustainable model. Several companies and public administrations are testing and adopting new time organization models such as 4-day weeks or flexible schedules and there are already successful experiences across Europe, in Spain, Germany, Finland, among other.

Besides the positive effects in our health and productivity, the right to one’s own time also can contribute to build a more sustainable society, aligned with the sustainable development goals and 2030 Agenda, as well as facilitate social and political participation.

As a summary, time policies can contribute to improve the current inequalities on time distribution between women and men. Now is the time to understand one’s own time as a citizen right that helps us fight and recover it as women and claim it as our own.

Faced with the new paradigm of digital work and platform economy, the climate emergency and the growing strength of the feminist movement, the institutions should incorporate the right to one’s own time. To achieve that, we need a strong and organised civil society. From Barcelona Time Use Initiative, we are working to move the time at the centre of policies for growth and well-being in local, national and global agendas. Tapping on numerous networks of organizations and institutions that already work on the time use domain and using collective knowledge to advance towards a more equal society that respects the right to one’s own time.

Ariadna Güell and Marta Junqué, co-coordinators of Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society ( )

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