Green economy  |  Successes  |  31.10.2012

Time Banks in Spain

At a time when unemployment in Spain continues to grow and public services are reduced as a response to the crisis, many local communities have decided to create parallel economies through which people offer and exchange their services without the involvement of money at all, by using time – working hours - as a currency.

The model of the Time Bank has spread all around Spain, and now more than 10.000 people are participating in over 300 time banks systems. This system in not new. In fact, the idea of the time banks comes from the United States as a way to supplement the social services eliminated by the  neoliberal reforms in the 80s. The first experience in Spain was the Barcelona Time Bank that dates form 1998. However, as a result of the current Spanish economic situation many citizens are joining Time Banks. This system has proved to be a success.  

What is a Time Bank?

The exchange unit in a Time Bank is one hour. The value doesn’t take into account the service provided or received. The Time Bank philosophy believes that our main wealth is time, and therefore, the unit of currency is valued at an hour's worth for any person's labor. Essentially, the time one spends providing these types of services earns "time" that one can spend to receive other services. 

The Spanish Time Bank system remains local and tied to cities and communities. This system motivates neighbors to know and help each other without an economic interest. It also gives value to little daily jobs that  are otherwise not appreciated. The Time Banks are effective tools to improve social inclusion, intergenerational exchange, conciliation of work and family life and gender equality within the community. 

Although the Time Bank system operates within communities, there have been initiatives to extend its operation to a national level. In other words, that one hour in Madrid could be exchanged by one hour in Valencia.  

The Example of Gràcia Time Bank 

One of the biggest Time Banks in Barcelona is the one developed in the district of Gràcia. The Gràcia Time Bank is a self-organised project with more than 300 neighbors registered. Each member has an hour check book and a list of services offered and demanded. When a member uses a service, he or she will give to the provider as many hour checks as the service has lasted. 

The Gràcia Time Bank has a strict control of all time transactions. All members meet once a month to inform the Bank secretariat about their time exchange during that month and to analyse the status of the bank. Every 6 month the Bank reviews all time transactions, informs members of their account status and warns them if someone has an unbalanced time account. As a principle, one can not accumulate more than 20 hours, but is also possible to voluntary transfer the hours to other users. 

The services provided by the Gràcia Bank Time members include: bringing kids to school or to after school activities; walking elderly people to the doctor; helping with house reparations; giving  classes in how to tailor cloths; helping the elderly with the shopping; helping with  domestic chores; teaching informatics and languages; giving legal advice to migrants, workers and families…

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