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Right to “free” time, an objective for consensus building

From the 24th to 26th October, the ninth Time Use Week —the international meeting point on time policies— was held. Over 150 panellists from all over the world representing universities, companies, and organisations took part in the event. They reflected on the relation between time use and the inequalities —poverty— it creates, and whether the right to time must be a right in the 21st Century.

Among all debates, highlighted proposals were:

  • High consensus towards the right to (free) time as a right for all citizens. In Spain, almost 40% of women with children suffers from time poverty — they have less than 2 hours per day of free time. In order to reduce such a poverty and its social unrest, there exists a globalised consensus towards building up the right to time in upcoming years. Such a consensus does not only come from Catalan institutions, which have pioneered in putting this issue on the agenda, nor the 100 organisations that signed the Barcelona Declaration on Time Policies (2021). It is also a shared vision with member of international organisations, such as the United Nations, the European Parliament, or the Local and Regional Governments TIME Network. The right to time will reduce inequalities and time poverty and will contribute to having a balanced and healthy life. As expressed by Tània Verge, Catalan Minister for Equality and Feminisms, during the Week’s opening speech, it will create the possibility to live a “liveable life”.


  • The Spanish Time Use Act, key at the country’s government mandate — ending next year. Regarding working time organisation, one of the highlighted speeches was from Joaquín Pérez Rey, Spanish Secretary of State for Work and Social Economy. He pointed out that approving a Time Use and Schedules Rationalization Act is a milestone for his Ministry during the current term. The panel was used in order to debate possible proposals that the Spanish Time Use Act should include. The Barcelona Time Use Initiative (BTUI) is currently advising the Ministry for Work and Social Economy on such a project. Different experts expressed the need to look for a new balance between the diversity in time use that are essential for life — paid and unpaid care works, free and resting time — in order to guarantee healthier, more egalitarian, more efficient, and more sustainable times. Marta Junqué, coordinator of the BTUI, pointed out that “103 years ago, Spain was the first country in the world that enforced, by law, the 8-hour working time in every working sector. After one hundred years, time unrest is a generalised experience by a majority of the population. Therefore, Spain should be the first country that introduces an integral Time Use Act, that guarantees the right to time.”


  • A common plan to end clock change in Europe. Progressing in one of the objectives from the Barcelona Declaration in Time Policy, signed in October 2021, a Plan to implement natural times in the European Union has been presented. The proposal seeks to establish permanent time zones in the European continent, ending with seasonal clock change and maintaining natural times by locating each country in their correct time zones. Such a proposal will be presented to the European Commission and Member States for their consideration.


  • Great interest by Latin American municipalities in order to develop time policies within the Local and Regional Governments TIME Network. Since 1980 to now, municipalities and regions keep being the beacon for implementing time policies. Barcelona, as World Capital on Time Policies 2022-2023, has hosted the General Assembly of the Network, in which Latin American cities have joined, such as Bogotá or Buenos Aires. During such an event, the action plan for 2023 was presented, where objectives such as publishing good practices in mobility and time —15-minute cites—, tackling participation and democracy, and night time policies as well. Both issues will count with experiences of French and Italian cities, which have been working on them for months.


  • From a Catalan point of view, debates on the “right to time” have reached all territories within the region. Time Use Week regional partner organisations have hosted events in all Catalan provinces. There have been three main objectives for such events: 1) creating awareness on the right to time, 2) listening to and learning from territorial needs within Catalonia, and 3) giving visibility to companies and organisations that are implementing good practices in time use in different urban and rural contexts. Moreover, and in order to strengthen such an territorial dimension, on Thursday 27th the Catalan Government presented the Catalan Network on the Right To Time (“Xarxa Catalana pel Dret al Temps”) in front of one hundred organisations. This is a network that will foster collaboration and knowledge sharing between all key actors (companies, social actors, research centres, and municipalities) in order to make the right to time a reality.


The Time Use Week has been co-organised between the BTUI, the Catalan Government, the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Provincial Council, and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and has counted with the support of other organisations.

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