It’s about time for a time revolution

20 October 2022

The Time Use Week kicks off in Barcelona on 24 October. Under the title ‘Time and (in-)equalities’, this initiative aims to inspire cities and residents to better use time and find the right balance between a to-do list and well-deserved resting.

Sonia Ruiz, Barcelona’s Gender and Time Policies director.

The first objective is to “generate city awareness” of time being “a right for all,” says Sonia Ruiz, Gender and Time Policies director at the Barcelona City Council.

“We aim to foster time policies as a key element to improve citizens’ wellbeing, to encourage relevant stakeholders and institutions such as the United Nations and the EU, and to make recommendations on time policies and try to put these issues on the political agenda,” she adds.

Something as precious as time

Time works as a crosscutting element, making fields as varied as health, equality, productivity, sustainability, or the workplace act as time savers instead of time consumers.

For example, a time perspective can be introduced into urban planning. When the surroundings of a school are car-free, children can walk safely and in a more accessible and faster way in the morning. Since parents no longer need to accompany them, it saves time.

But children are also impacted by late timetables. In Spain, seminars and activities after-school are frequently scheduled late in the evening and impact children’s routine and sleeping time. Urban actions like including the time perspective can improve the well-being of citizens, social equality and the city’s sustainability.

Street musicians in Barcelona©Richard Hewat

Barcelona will present this and other good practices during the Time Use Week as part of a collection of 19 publications on time quality called ‘The dossiers of Time’. Municipalities from any part of the world can access the research, followed by another analysis of time poverty at a local scale.

The research has come out as gender-disaggregated data, which is “absolutely necessary because there is always a gender intersectional perspective in time policies,” explains Ruiz. She adds that time dedication is undoubtedly linked to domestic and unpaid work, “a very feminised field.”

Indeed, Italian, French and Spanish cities “stand out for their time policies, which started in Italy with strong links to the Feminist movement,” says Ruiz. Everything started with demands to share work and, therefore, time.

A long history of fighting for quality time

Barcelona has been selected as the world capital for time policies by the Local and Regional Time Governments Network for 2022 – 2023. This network shares knowledge among its members by exchanging experiences, lessons learned and good practices on local and regional time policies and promoting them internationally.

The Time Use Week will host the annual assembly of the Network, as a critical point on a series of activities held during the year around time policies, such as exchange events with other municipalities and activities to raise awareness amongst citizens.

Indeed, Barcelona has a long history of actively promoting time policies. More concretely, since 2003, when the council established a councillorship on time use with 67 measures in seven fields: care, education, services to the citizens, work, participation, sustainability and sustainable city (such as mobility and urban planning) and health.

The first time office in a local council in Spain was followed by the creation, in 2006, of the first company network for new time uses. It is a growing group of companies working together to promote networking and exchange experiences around new organizational models that make the balance of work, care and personal time possible. Two years later, the city scaled up to an international context by co-founding the European Network of Cities for Time Policies.

In 2014, it created the first Time Agreement, a city-wide agreement with social and economic stakeholders to promote a healthier, more egalitarian, and more efficient use of time. Since then, the City Council has developed more than 70 time projects around seven strategic axes: care, health, education, work, participation, services to citizens, and sustainable cities.

The council engages with other stakeholders, such as institutions, companies and citizens, to avoid time poverty and promote a more egalitarian use of time.

Indeed, time can improve citizens’ well-being, and Barcelona has a clear idea of how to prioritise its more efficient use in our daily lives.


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer