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World

Economist Says Spain Needs A Siesta

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Sleep is a touchy subject in Spain, the country that gave us the word siesta. The workday in Spain ends at around 9 p.m. to allow for a leisurely lunch. Few people in Spain actually take a nap during the day, but Spaniards don't sleep much at night either, with dinner, other activities starting at around 10 p.m. Nuria Chinchilla is an economist at the IESE Business School in Barcelona. And she's been petitioning the Spanish government to set Spain at a schedule to match most of the rest of the modern industrial world. Dr. Chinchilla joins us now. Thanks very much for being with us.

NURIA CHINCHILLA: Thank you.

SIMON: What would a 9 to 5 or 9 to 6, as the prime minister proposed, how would that help people out?

CHINCHILLA: It will help very much not to waste time in the day - in the working day - because when you know that you are staying there until so late, you are really wasting your time. You are surviving in a much less efficient way. So we want to have time to have a life after work, which is not the case now because of these bad habits.

SIMON: Did you and your family have the siesta when you were growing up?

CHINCHILLA: My father had the siesta - two-hour siesta with pajama in bed.

SIMON: Do you realize how good that sounds to a lot of Americans?

CHINCHILLA: I know, I know. But he was a lawyer and we had lunch at 2:30. And then until 4:30, a siesta, time for him, and then finally he went back to the office.

SIMON: So he didn't get home until 10, I guess, right, in which case the children were in bed and...

CHINCHILLA: Exactly. But this is not the case anymore here. Nobody is going home to have the siesta unless you are in the rural areas because in the cities, 90 percent of people are having lunch outside.

SIMON: Oh, yeah. You can't - Barcelona traffic, you can't get home.

CHINCHILLA: No Barcelona, no Madrid either, no.

SIMON: And do you think Spain is less competitive economically because...

CHINCHILLA: Oh, yes. In the business environment where you have a rational time schedule, then you have more productivity per hour worked. In Spain, we are the last ones in Europe in productivity per hour.

SIMON: I wonder what you'd say to Americans who may have a romantic view of the siesta, who on any given workday inhale a sandwich while they stand looking at their computer screen.

CHINCHILLA: Well, that is terrible too. I think we need one hour to have lunch in a decent way. This is very good, but not two or three hours that we have here. The hope to be similar to you and all the European countries beside us because really we need that for health, for family. We will have more time for having this life that we want to have. And for sure, you could have also some more time to have the lunch which is healthier.

SIMON: Nuria Chinchilla is an economist and professor of management at the IESE Business School in Barcelona. Thanks very much for joining us.

CHINCHILLA: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.