At ALIVE, we implement a gender lens throughout our investment practices, from origination to post-investment management. One of our portfolio companies, Symplifica, created a job formalization platform (more on that later) which has an outsized impact on women in the care economy, specifically women who are domestic workers in Latin America – a population of primarily low-income, migrant, and generally underserved women, many of whom are also mothers.
To help Symplifica better understand its impact, we thought what better way to understand that impact than talking directly with the women themselves? So that’s what we did, speaking to over 200 women who use Symplifica’s platform.
Here’s what we learned from those conversations.
A Solution for Domestic Workers and their Employers
In Latin America, there are about 20 million domestic workers, with nearly 1 million working in Colombia. Almost all of them are women.
They perform a variety of tasks, including cleaning the house, cooking, washing clothes, childcare, taking care of the elderly, and more. Even though they are key members of the care economy, providing essential services to households across the region, about 8 out of 10 work informally and lack basic workers’ rights. Symplifica is working to change that.
To formalize domestic worker employment in the region, Symplifica created an online platform which facilitates the creation, signing, and management of a contract between a domestic worker and their employer, including registration of the domestic worker in social security programs.
In addition to giving an employer greater peace of mind, making sure that they are not exposed to any legal risk due to having an informal worker, their service also gives domestic workers access to formal work benefits.
These benefits include basic employee rights such as medical insurance, pension, severance, worker’s compensation, maternity leave, and more.
Symplifica’s latest offering, an app which promotes the empowerment of female domestic workers, delivers further value to workers by facilitating access to financial education, mental and physical health advising, and self-confidence and entrepreneurship curriculum.
Since the date of our investment, they have formalized over 11,000 domestic workers across Colombia.
Changing the game for domestic workers
“I am receiving benefits that I did not have before, before they were not offered to me, and I did not even expect it. Now, I have a steady job and peace of mind, and social security too.” - Domestic worker
To better understand how these products and services are impacting employers and domestic workers, we designed an impact measurement study with our partner, 60 Decibels.
Both employers and domestic workers were surveyed, but in this article, we’ll focus on the results from the domestic workers' side.
Of a random set of 2,000 domestic workers registered on Symplifica’s platform, we surveyed 202, a representative sample of those workers.
90% perceive the benefits provided by Symplifica as important
65% say their quality of life has improved.
61% report improved labor rights knowledge
93% report being confident in being able to exercise their workers’ rights if need be
Reaching underserved communities
59% are from low-income communities (on average earning less than USD11/day)
71% have a high school education or less
47% had never accessed formal job benefits before
Findings that jumped out
56% are single mothers
74% are gaining access to maternity leave for the first time
It is clear from these results that Symplifica is reaching a population of beneficiaries that were previously very underserved, and that they are providing an essential service.
One particular result worth highlighting is the fact that 9 out of 10 of these women feel they can exercise their workers’ rights should the need arise. This indicates that not only is Symplifica providing a platform for formalization, it is also creating a path for those empowered women to put their rights to work. This is especially significant considering that half of the women had never before had such benefits through their jobs.
More than half of Symplifica’s domestic workers are also single mothers. When we consider that 7% of all employed women in Colombia work as domestic workers, the majority are employed informally, and the benefits of parental leave are numerous and well-studied, providing access to benefits like maternity leave (3 out 4 said they were accessing maternity leave for the first time) not only has an outsized positive impact on those women but positive short-term and long-term impacts for their children as well.
What’s next for Symplifica?
As we have noted, the lack of formality in the care economy for women domestic workers is not isolated to just Colombia. Across Latin America there is substantial need to formalize employment for the millions of women who work in this sector.
What this study has shown is that Symplifica is addressing that need in Colombia, validating formalization as a path to creating a profound positive impact for domestic workers.
Symplifica’s opportunity now lies in using these data to facilitate entry into new markets, while also continuing to strengthen its current offering, improving the lives of women across Colombia and eventually across Latin America.