Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

Turning back the clock: How daylight saving affects UAE

On October 27, some countries, including the US and UK, will turn their clocks back an hour

On October 27, some countries will turn their clocks back an hour to mark the end of daylight saving time, a twice-a-year custom in 70 countries. Getty Images
On October 27, some countries will turn their clocks back an hour to mark the end of daylight saving time, a twice-a-year custom in 70 countries. Getty Images

From next week, some residents in the UAE may have to sacrifice an hour of sleep to catch up with family and friends back home.

On October 27, some countries, including the US and UK, will turn their clocks back an hour to mark the end of daylight saving time.

As such, overseas residents living in the UAE may find it a little more difficult to co-ordinate phone calls with loved ones. Some may have to rise a little earlier from bed in the morning, or delay their evening bed routine to schedule a chat with friends and family in certain parts of the world.

New York, for example, will now be nine hours behind the UAE instead of eight, while Los Angeles will have a 12 hour time difference. The UK will go from three to four hours behind the UAE.

Lebanon and Jordan are also among some of the approximate 70 countries around the world that still observe the time change. From Sunday they will each be two hours behind the UAE.

What is daylight saving time?

The clocks change twice a year for many countries, going forward by an hour during the summer, and then back again in autumn, or fall, to make the most out of the daylight.

This means sunrise and sunset appear an hour later in the summer in countries that observe daylight saving time, and an hour earlier in the winter.

Most areas in Europe and North America observe DST, while most areas of Africa and Asia do not. When DST is not observed, it is called standard time, normal time or winter time.

For Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos living in the UAE, who account for some of the largest expatriate populations in the country, their respective countries do not observe the twice-a-year custom, which means the time difference remains the same all year around.

Over the years, several countries have ditched the DST concept all together, including Morocco in 2018. In 2009, the government of Tunisia also cancelled daylight savings and kept the standard time all year round. And all the way back in 1951, Japan abandoned the biannual change.

Daylight savings has never been used in the Emirates, which observes Gulf Standard Time all year.

Will any other countries be scrapping it?

In 2018, a survey of 4.6 million people living in the 28 countries of the European Union found that most citizens were against the practice of turning their clocks forward and back each year. More than three-quarters of them called it a “negative” or “very negative” experience. Making true on its promise to attempt to scrap the concept, the European parliament voted to ditch the bi-annual tradition in March this year. The plan is to fully observe standard time, year-round, by 2021. It is now up to national governments to give their assent.

The idea of scrapping the changing of the clocks is to strengthen the EU’s single market, shortening the time gap between others countries it trades with.

While the news has been welcomed by many, UK residents abroad and at home could miss out on the opportunity due to Brexit. Once the country breaks away from the EU, the new rules will not apply. Aside from the inconvenience of the extended time difference in the winter for British nationals living in the UAE remaining, the possibility of two different time zones between the UK and EU countries could create fresh problems over business and trade.

Where did the idea first come from?

American inventor Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest altering the clocks in 1784 to save on candles. In 1895 a New Zealand entomologist proposed moving the clock two hours to give bug hunters more light in the evenings during the summer. It was only imposed in 1916, when Germany used it to save money during First World War. Other European countries and the United States followed, but the law was repealed in the US in 1919, but reimposed in 1966. It has been the law across the European Union since the start of the 1980s, when it was introduced to save energy costs.

Updated: October 25, 2019 01:26 PM

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