This article is adapted from AQ’s latest issue on the politics of water in Latin America
There are approximately 18 million domestic workers in Latin America and the Caribbean, the International Labor Organization estimates. Among them, nearly 80% work informally and 93% are women. Formalizing employment can improve workers’ conditions, protect their rights, and recognize their contributions to the region’s economies. To help do that, Colombia’s Saula García co-founded Symplifica, a platform that helps employers enroll workers in the social security system and access other benefits. AQ spoke to García about the company’s origins.
How did Symplifica come about?
We soon heard from friends and family who were being sued by domestic workers for contracting them unlawfully. After looking into it, we discovered three things: First, employers weren’t aware what the law required of them. Second, the social security system was too complex to navigate. And third, many domestic workers were not aware of their rights. So we saw an opportunity to create a tool that facilitates the formalization process for workers and a business that improves their quality of life. In 2016, we launched our app which helps employers arrange benefits, for example, but also provides a medium for resolving legal disputes or workplace accidents.
What was the initial reaction?
There was some resistance from employers, so we had to educate them on the risks they faced if they didn’t hire formally. It can be more expensive at first, but ultimately the costs of not doing so, in the form of a lawsuit, for example, could cost them more.
Where is this industry going?
I think the movement of domestic workers demanding their rights is irreversible. We hope to create more tools to facilitate formalization, but governments also have a big responsibility. So I see the development of this industry as something positive, but unfortunately I think it will be slow.
How has your experience as a woman entrepreneur been?
As an active entrepreneur I’ve often found myself alone at events in Colombia. In fact, when President Iván Duque invited 14 startups to Silicon Valley for a tour this year, I was the only woman.
While there are some valuable projects focused on gender, including Symplifica, in which the majority of employees are women, you still find too few companies where the founder is a woman. For me it is important to have diversity among your team. It is not about having more women or more men—it’s about balance.
Women have different skills from men that make it really interesting to have them as part of the executive team of any company. Fortunately, there are increasingly more funds that want to invest in women and more initiatives that want to recognize women entrepreneurs.
Uriegas is a journalist based in New York
Tags: Domestic labor