Platform takes Spanish families beyond word-of-mouth

MADRID -- FamiliaFacil makes home-life simpler as the network for everything you need.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID -- FamiliaFacil follows its name by making it easy for families to find help, in their ground-breaking-for-Spain business.

When Nieves Fernández was planning to return to work after her maternity leave, she asked herself the crucial question, "Who was going to take care of my babies?"

Spain doesn't have enough daycare for the under-three crowd, leaving lots of parents to look to individuals to take care of their children. When you want to start your own company, Fernández advises, "The first thing you look at is your necessities."

In general, before FamiliaFacil, there was no way, besides word-of-mouth, to find child caretakers, tutors, housecleaners, dog walkers and more. There are many sites in Spain for real estate like Idealista and Fotocasa, but "How many times do you buy a house, maybe two? But what about no sites for helping at the house?"

"The person taking care of the baby is the most important," Fernández says. "Offline, what happens, you call someone, you call a friend, an agency," but you can't know the actual person until they come to your house.

Under three years of age, only 37.5-percent of Spanish toddlers are in a learning environment, like daycare. While this socialist nation has government-funded daycare centers--which can be public or Catholic--and even though previous prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero promised universal education for children aged 0 to 3 years in 2007, the government isn't near to meeting the demand. By three years old, 97.6-percent of Spanish children are in school. This means that, after the usual four months maternity leave, mothers must decide whether to forgo their income for 32 months or to find help raising and watching their children during working hours. The typical Spanish workday lasts from 9a.m. to 9p.m..

Many grandparents take on this responsibility, however, job searches have more and more Spanish families gravitating toward cities, often away from these biological caretakers. The vast majority of FamiliaFacil's clients are in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Bilbao. More and more, Spanish parents are left to find strangers to take care of their children.

The beta, which only registered the potential employees, went live in October 2011. In the midst of the crisis, the response was huge--8,000 registered in the first three months.

With over a quarter of the Spanish population unemployed the desire for jobs--both legal and under-the-table--abounds. There are now 70,000 registered candidates for jobs in Spain, with about 200 people joining each day. Fernández says that most of the candidates are applying for taxable income, as Spain has made an effort to give home-caregivers--usually from Latin America or Eastern Europe--legal paperwork. However, she admitted that there could be people "en paro," hoping to continue earning their unemployment benefits, while making some illegal income on the side.

While the most popular jobs are caregivers, babysitters and after-school tutors, the site has spots for anyone from chauffeurs, hairdressers and gardeners to certified newborn specialists. In a country that for the previous decade stood on the now crumbled construction industry, the fastest growing spots are for handy and maintenance men. The newest field is for personal trainers, for a sometimes cheaper and certainly more personal alternative to the gym.

The next step is to, of course, eventually take the site abroad. With the economic crisis leaving the Spanish looking around the E.U. for work, Fernández is finding an unexpected demand for Spanish families living in Germany or the U.K., who are looking for native Spanish speakers to relocate and care for their kids.

In an effort to make workplaces friendlier to the changing Spanish family dynamic--which sees both parents attempting to work, whether opposite or same sex--corporations like Banco Santander are providing on-site daycare centers. But these are limited to the biggest, mostly the IBEX-35 companies. Fernández is finding her newest customer is mid-sized companies that are buying package subscriptions. FamiliaFacil will set up mini-sites on their Intranets, providing their employees with free access to the resource, costing a nominal fee, compared with having an on-site daycare.

Only the family pays for a subscription, with fees around 35 euros for a month, after taxes, while both placement agencies and freelancers can post their resumes for free. Since the average Spanish person uses much of his or her 30 vacation days avoiding the somewhat unbearable heat in the months of July and especially August, families can find that they've lost their usual housekeeper when they get back to the cities in September. Or maybe they need someone to come on holiday with them to their summer home in Marbella or Alicante. This makes one- to two-month subscription the average.

It is more than a LinkedIn-like virtual resume, as it features 80 fields per candidate, including spots for reference checks, and very specific self-evaluation and schedules of availability. The candidates list their going rate, so there's no need to barter fees. The newly-launched makeover of the web site even allows candidates to post short videos.

FamiliaFacil is simply a platform that facilitates the needed connections, whether it is a live-in nanny or someone to come do the ironing once a week. Fernández says they do follow-up with each successful pairing, including step-by-step of how to file the social security paperwork, as employers in Spain pay much of their employees' contribution to funds like the public healthcare system.

Spain doesn't have anything like the States' "Megan's Law," which requires sex offenders to be publicly-listed--all of this is strictly private information left only to the police. The best FamiliaFacil can do is to cross-check candidates' identity numbers to verify they are who they say they are. In addition, if candidates provide the contact info of previous references, the administrators contact the references directly, publishing whatever they are told.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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