According to "Spain appoints 'minister for sex' to reverse nation's plummeting birth rate":

Experts say long working hours and a culture of eating late at night and going to bed after midnight are partly to blame for the nation’s sex famine.

Rafael Puyol, of the IE Business School in Madrid, said: “They do not help with making a family. Then when a child arrives it is even worse.”

Is there evidence for the claimed causality?

  • Claim part #1: Spain has long working hours (presumably, in comparison with other countries, in relation to birth or intercourse rates)

  • Claim part #2: there is causation between the two

  • No idea about claim 2, but for claim 1, the Spanish average working week seems to be about 40 hours. Source: businessculture.org/southern-europe/business-culture-in-spain/… Mar 7, 2017 at 17:42
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    @CPerkins Your link also says "The typical Spanish working day tends to be from around 8.30am or 9am to around 1.30 pm and then from 4.30pm or 5pm to around 8pm." Which I think may indicate part of the problem - that the Spanish work late and have less time in the evening. (So rather than importance being on the number of working hours, it is the fact they are finishing later that matters) Mar 7, 2017 at 22:18
  • @LioElbammalf yes it does. But the claim is "long working hours", not "late working hours". Mar 8, 2017 at 16:13
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    When thinking about time in Spain, keep in mind that the country is operating on CET despite most of it being further west than Greenwich. Basically they are one hour ahead of the sun, and two during DST. Mar 8, 2017 at 22:32
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    It seems clear to me that we are tackling a strawman caused by poor wording. I don't think anyone believes the Spanish work significantly more hours than other people, but they famously work until later at night. Is there any point answering the first claim, when then second one is almost certainly what was intended?
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 9, 2017 at 3:43

2 Answers 2


Hours Worked

First, Spain does not have excessively long hours of work among OECD countries.

Source: OECD.Stat:

Map showing average hours worked

In fact, at 1,691 hours per annum in 2015, Spain is slightly below the median of 1,749 and mean of 1,756.

Spain does not have longer working hours in comparison with other OECD countries

Long hours reduces birth rates

Lack of correlation is strong evidence of lack of causation. Using the data above (averaged in 5 year blocks between 2000 and 2015) and cross referenced with UN data on crude birth rates gives:

Correlation of Birthrate and Annual Hours Worked

(The graph is produced by averaging the hours worked from the OECD data set ito 2000-2005, 2005-2010 & 2010-2015 blocks to correspond with the UN data points, matching the data for each country and plotting as an x-Y scatter).

There is a correlation, however, it is tiny (R2 = 0.1) and it is obvious from the look of the graph that there is a lot more noise than signal here. Notwithstanding, it goes the wrong way, that is, longer hours are correlated with higher birth rates.

A reduction in hours worked is not correlated with higher birth rates


Disclaimer: This is difficult to actually prove without performing rather intrusive research into the lives of Spanish couples.

For part 1: No, they don't work longer hours (source). They do, however, finish work later which supports part of the claim your source makes:

Experts say long working hours and a culture of eating late at night and going to bed after midnight are partly to blame for the nation’s sex famine

For point 2 it was difficult to say precisely but I worked off two hypothesis:

  • If this changed their sexual habits Spanish couples having less time in the evening would not only change the amount of sex but also the time put aside for it.
  • In areas other than time Spanish couples are not particularly different to the rest of Europe.

So if I could find something to support lower satisfaction it might in turn support them having less sex. (This is, however, subject to the hypothesis being true).

I found some results of research done by durex. In there we had a couple of results that were important.

Firstly we see that the average time for intercourse is roughly similar to other European countries (France aside). So Spanish couples aren't taking less time in having sex. Average intercourse time

However we see that the satisfaction in women is markedly different: Orgasm gap

Spain standing out within Europe as giving less attention to women for them achieve orgasm. Given that women take longer to orgasm we could interpret this as that, on average, less time was put aside for foreplay.

As you can see I've proven nothing: however from another perspective to the research provided the hypothesis was supported.

Also I couldn't find the numbers used to provide these graphs - those would probably provide a better insight into the differences.

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    I'm valiantly refraining from making comments regarding France's stats on the first map vs. reputation :)
    – user5341
    Mar 8, 2017 at 20:33
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    I think you read the second graph wrong. It says it's "number of men saying they orgasm always - number of women saying they orgsam always". So the bigger the number, the less women reach orgasm regularly during intercourse. Which means Spain is actually the country in Europe paying the most attention to their women.
    – Dulkan
    Mar 9, 2017 at 9:50

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