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Time Use Week 2022: 24th October - Reducing inequalities with the right to time

A brief report on the Time Use Week first day, where key concepts were discussed and proposals on how to alleviate time inequalities were made.

At the opening session, the institutions co-organizing the event officially inaugurated the Time Use Week. Tània Verge (Catalan Government), Teresa Llorens (Barcelona Provincial Council), Monserrat Ballarín (Barcelona Metropolitan Area and Barcelona City Council) and Joan Francesc Pont (Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society) emphasized the importance of collaboration between institutions to ensure that the right to time is guaranteed as a citizens' right.

All the organisers shared the consensus about the need to work for the right to time, as it is essential for a more equal, democratic, egalitarian, and sustainable society. The current situation of "time poverty" reflects the fact that the right to time is unequally distributed, depending on gender, class origin, ethnicity, and other inequality axis.

Several policies already in place to guarantee the right to time were presented by the speakers, such as a Metropolitan Pact to promote time policies in the municipalities, support programmes for carers and to promote co-responsibility, support programmes for child and elderly care, or the creation of a Catalan network for the right to time.

Afterwards, the session on “the right to time, a pending achievement for the XXI Century?” focused on reflecting how current inequalities in time use can be solved. Emel Memis explained the concept of both poverty and time poverty, highlighting that time poverty is also a gendered phenomenon, and that is why it is important in the analysis of time use data to make visible the different dimensions of poverty. Both Aslı Çoban, from UNDP Turkey and Lina Gálvez, member of the European Parliament, who presented the key results of the report “Women poverty in Europe”, stressed the importance of reports, statistical studies, and surveys to make the problem more visible in all its dimensions and at the same time promote specific public policies that are connected to economic and labour policies. After reflecting on the concept of time poverty, Ulrich Mückenberger, explained the concept of the right to time, defined as the “self-determination over one’s own time”, as a potential answer. He highlighted its importance as a citizen’s right and how it is already implied in certain national and European public policies such as the 3-weeks-clause to see a specialized doctor, rights of parents for kindergarten places and hours, or the right to disconnect.

To continue the session, Diego Golombek, chronobiologist from San Andrés University (Argentina), emphasised the importance of the relationship between the time available for sleep and its impact on health. How we sleep, why we sleep, when we sleep and how much we sleep are key questions to discover this relationship. Poor sleep has negative effects on people’s health, affecting their mood, ability to concentrate and learning. However, not enough is said about how valuable sleep is, and even less is said about how it also affects inequalities. Then Yayo Herrero, anthropologist at Garúa Cooperativa, reflected on the relationship between time, time poverty and sustainability. Using the concept of “sustainability of life”, she highlighted how the current eco-social crisis and climate change are a consequence of living in accelerated rhythms of life that do not correspond to a sustainable life, because we are experiencing a frontal collision between natural times and hegemonic times (marked by the exploitation of natural resources and the current economic system). Finally, Sara Moreno, sociologist at Barcelona Autonomous University, pointed out that 21% of the population is affected by time poverty, and when the gender perspective is included, this rises to 24%. From a gender perspective, it is of particular interest when time use is linked to work, because women work more, and the sexual division of labour persists. Women work more in a day than men, if we consider that men spend more time on paid work (with social and economic recognition) and women spend more time on unpaid and unrecognised work. This is the hard core of time poverty. Public policy must therefore work to turn the moral obligation to care into public co-responsibility, social responsibility, and ethical responsibility.

To end the first day of the Time Use Week, a common plan to end the clock change in Europe was presented. Ticia Luengo and Manuela Lipinsky, both members of the International Alliance for Natural Time, explained the transition plan on ending DST. The proposal has been developed by a group of experts that have worked together this past year to develop a proposal on implementing permanent time zones in the European Union. The proposal involves aligning the different countries’ time zones as close as possible to their solar time. This means that each country will adopt the time zone that reflects their geographical situation, thereby promoting health, economy, safety, and the environment.

The key argument to adopt such a proposal is that misaligned clocks increase sleep deprivation and social jetlag in most of the population, which is associated with significant negative effects on human health, economy, and safety. Martha Merrow, researcher at LMU and member of the European Biological Rhythms Society, then highlightedwhy it is important to end DST from a biological and health point of view, by explaining the functioning of chronotype and how DST insures the misalignment of the biological clock. Using the cases of Argentina and the United States, Diego Golombek and Jay Pea, founder of Save Standard Time, pointed out the importance of communication and awareness-raising campaigns, highlighting that the scientific community should communicate the effects of DST on the population in a more pedagogical way, both to raise awareness among citizens, politicians, and policymakers. The latter are particularly important, given that the time zones have been defined according to political rather than scientific or natural criteria. To finish the session, Sophie Trampf, policy officer at DG MOVE in the European Commission (EC), evaluated positively the proposal, as it complies with the requirements set forward by the EC, to respect the unity of the common market.

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