21 Oct 2012

Parallel economy evolving in Spain

8:17 am on 21 October 2012

Amid mass unemployment and insecurity over the euro, a parallel economy is evolving in Spain.

Deutsche Welle reports it's based on time banks, where services are exchanged in a barter-style system.

In the past two years, the number of time banks in Spain has doubled, to nearly 300. Most have anywhere from 50 to 400 members.

Time banks originated among 19th-century European socialists who emphasized the direct link between their labor and what they could get for it.

Nowadays most time banks operate online. People register for a profile that lists their work skills and services they can offer, as well as tasks they are looking for someone else to do for them.

Some are working over 20 hours per week, in a variety of odd jobs.

About one-third of the members are unemployed. Deutsche Welle reports that to them, equality is the most important concept of all.

"For me, it's important to know that my time has the same value as anyone else's,'' said Lola Sanchez of Madrid.

''There's no difference between one hour of work for a computer specialist or a cleaning woman."

Jose Luis Herranz, 27, helped start the time bank she belongs to in Madrid, late last year.

He monitors the barter of services among members, and logs their hours online. For people who don't have access to a computer, they can fill out a slip and deliver it to their neighborhood association.

Deutsche Welle says time banks are especially useful in Spain, where traditionally close families have been fractured by urbanization in the past generation - and now, unemployment.

"It's a question of reconstructing the sense of community that used to exist in Spanish villages in the old days - which doesn't exist here in the city," said banker Julio Gisbert, who spends his spare time as a consultant to time banks.