Memorandum: The Right to Time, an urgent topic on the European Agenda

Actualizado: ago 7

All over Europe, time of citizens faces acceleration, coordination difficulties, time squeeze, temporal inequalities and injustice. In this memorandum, we call upon the European institutions to provide for explicit time policies leading to better quality of life and healthier and sustainable society, to just relationships of genders and generations and to sustainable development. We plead for the recognition of a “right to time”,enforcing time policies throughout the European Union and encouraging governments to implement time policies in order to confer a right to the time to European citizens.

Now more than ever time policies are an urgent claim and need. The crises Europe has undergone recently – Covid-19, climate change, financial crisis, care-crisis, and social cleavages within European societies – show that Europe needs a re-equilibration of its values and resources. Time for care, time for human well-being, time for social cohesion and solidarity, time structures for a stable economy and the recognition of the times of nature have become more urgent than ever. It is time for time policy.

Explicit time policies were first implemented in the early 1990s in Italy, when women demanded a user-friendly organization of local times – at work, in the domestic sphere, on the level of the city. This created momentum to local initiatives for citizen-friendly reforms of public and private time schedules and reorganization of urban planning, integrating space and time. These initiatives have been implemented in several cities of Europe such as Barcelona, Strasbourg, Bolzano, etc. For example, “Tempi della Città” (times of the city) “City bank times” have spread in several European countries with the support of European programs (Eurexcter and Equal).

Time policies, implicitly shaping individual life-courses, collective rhythms of society and everyday life, have always existed. We plead for making time policies explicit and democratically legitimised. This means taking into account the implications for health of the circadian rhythms on any public policy, considering social uses of time and their impact on gender, race or other social differences when designing a new public service and including an analysis of time use and its impact on our environment when we design mobility, energy or other key policies. They require public discourse of temporal implications of policies which are normally seen in their specific context only (as labour, education, urban planning, traffic, tourism policies etc.), not in their temporal context.

An evident example is the pending decision on the change of seasonal clock time in Europe (Daylight Saving Time), which a final decision needs to be taken at the European level by 2021. The temporal organisation of society should not be structured either by state, economic power or traditions (alone), but rather by democratic decision, taking into consideration health impact. The high participation (more than 4.6 million replies) to the consultation launched by the European Commission on the consultation on ending the seasonal clock changes in the UE, show the strong interest of EU citizens of time related policies. Therefore, we plead for public policies considering temporal aspects and impacts which means, in the first place, to make them visible by putting them in the political public agenda.

The rising awareness of the significance of time in everyday-life lead to the emergence of a new key element of the modern welfare state: the right to time. The Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional authorities, in October 2010, adopted two decisions encouraging governments to implement time policies in order to confer a right to the time to European citizens (Resolution 313/2010 and Recommendation 295/2010). According this resolution, the right to time has five components:

  • free determination of individuals over their time;

  • no discrimination (gender, age, ethnic, or otherwise) in the use of time;

  • no devaluation of times such as unemployment, training, time for caring for others, for civic engagement;

  • everyone’s freedom to develop a proper culture of time-use;

  • the right to common social times.

The modern welfare state and the European Social Pillar should no longer limit itself to guaranteeing a basic financial welfare, but equally integrate temporal wellbeing and self-determination.

Policies implementing the right to time encompass various areas. They reconcile the different spheres of daily life, different types of work, caring for others and domestic and voluntary activity, leisure, and different social milieus. They deal with conflicts between different temporal demands for infrastructure, the use of the night etc. They reshape the space-time of daily life with a view to sustainable development and improving the quality of life and a healthier life. As democratic policies, they involve citizens providing for participatory co-construction of time-projects with different stakeholders; citizen-friendly cooperation between services of the different authority branches and levels; and reversible experimentation.

The instruments of time policies are multifold, based on broad experiences and expertise in European countries. They range from knowledge generating (monitoring of spatial rhythms, time-impact assessment methods), modes of citizen participation (including children, elderly, non-residents) in time-projects up to the integration of spatial and temporal planning. A time-political ‘tool-kit’ is at hand, experts (practitioners as well as academics) are available, all over Europe.

It is urgent that the European Union institutions take action. What Europe needs in the current situation, is a powerful European stance in favour of “right to time” enforcing time policies throughout the European Union and encouraging governments to implement time policies in order to confer a right to the time to European citizen policies and a European “place” where time-political experience and expertise come together and could flourish.

We, the signatories of this memorandum, take the opportunity of the German EU Council Presidency to call on the members of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission to put the following objectives on their political agenda:

  • to increase the awareness for the temporal implications of public policies and actions,

  • to make the direct and indirect temporal implications explicit within policy-making, relating them with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Green New Deal,

  • to design explicit temporally oriented and citizen-inclusive policies.

  • to harmonise and share knowledge of the teleworking initiatives, which are arising around all Europe, specially with the arrival of COVID-19

  • To promote working debates around 4-days-per-week and another time flexibility measures

We plead to create a “European Time Institute or Agency”, as a “place” mutually supporting and empowering time-policy Europe-wide, which aims at pooling scientific work and practical expertise on temporal issues in the various spheres. Similar Institutes or Public Offices have been created at the local level (eg. Bolzano) and regional level (Catalan Office for the Time Use Reform, created in 2018). The Institute should serve as a hub of:

  • supporting and promoting the european and local time use policies

  • transnational knowledge collection and distribution,

  • public and private institutions awareness campaigning,

  • innovative research,

  • exchange of scientists and practitioners,

  • advanced training and consultancy.

This institute could serve as a laboratory including various stakeholders and as a respected part of public opinion in public deliberation processes ( the pending seasonal clock time-issue) and finally provide European recommendations, expert opinions and certificates for the future actors of time policies.

The European Time Academy would show that the EU is willing to establish “time” as a key element of the European Social Pilar in favour of quality of life of citizens, gender equality, providing health. care and social cohesion through subsidiary processes of participatory democracy.

We take this opportunity to invite you to the I International Time Use Week that will take place mostly virtually from the 23 to 28th of November, in which several time use european political actors, research experts and NGOs will participate.

Signed by: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zeitpolitik (Berlin), Association „Tempo Territorial“ (France), International Association for Time Use Research (IATUR), Oficine Comunale del tempo Bolzano, Bergamo and Milano, Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society,, Oficina per la Reforma Horària de la Generalitat de Catalunya, and Barcelona (Gerencia Municipal de Ajuntament de Barcelona, Área de Desarrollo Económico y Social del Área Metropolitana de Barcelona, Área de Cohesión Social, Ciudadania y Bienestar de la Diputació de Barcelona)

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