Future of work Q&A: Hyungsik Eum, data analyst, CECOP-CICOPA

While the business model of individual co-ops might make innovations, they cannot be saved from pressures imposed by market competition

Q&Q with Hyungsik Eum, data analyst, CECOP-CICOPA – The European confederation of co-operatives active in industry and services

How will challenges over work affect co-ops?

Since 1970s when the welfare state model began suffering due to financial constraints and increase of new social needs, relational services between service providers and beneficiaries have received increasing attention as a source of employment.

This phenomenon has resulted in the proliferation of institutional and organisational innovations of co-op model. Since the 1990s we have observed the development of social co-ops as a new type of co-op.

Hyungsik Eum

These challenges will continue in coming decades. Therefore, co-operatives’ answers, particularly those experimented by the social co-operative model, will become more valid. However, we have also observed that the institutional frameworks for relational services were not always favourable for co-ops.

When co-ops failed to demonstrate their specificities but were subjected to the pure market logics, they have been marginalised by for-profit enterprises and their innovative contributions have not been correctly recognised.

How can the co-op movement offer a solution to these challenges?

Given that these challenges are more and more addressed through the market mechanism, co-ops have to compete with other service providers, particularly with for-profit enterprise. In this situation, co-operatives are often obliged to choose one of two options, namely: people and community-based development, and scaling-up strategy, which should not be necessarily exclusive.

However, it should be underlined that people and community-based development is the unique and authentic advantage of co-operative model, which for-private companies only can imitate to extent that it would not touch shareholders’ interest.

CICOPA members’ experiences shows that co-operation among co-operatives, such as consortium and co-operative group models and mutual financial tools, allows federating community-based co-operatives in face of huge competitors with aggressive financial investment.

Also, political alliance with other social economy actors and civil society organisations would become more important.

Do these challenges offer co-ops an opportunity?

A better employment model is more dependent on the institutional frameworks which regulate co-ops’ economic activities and workers’ conditions. Without appropriate institutional frameworks, co-ops might be even abused for worsening workers’ conditions. That is why we cannot say that co-ops can provide a better employment as themselves. The legal status of workers in co-ops should meet conditions for decent work. In order to develop appropriate legal status for workers, it is important for co-operative movement to collaborate with public authorities and labour movement.

How can co-ops help ensure new employment offers a decent income and quality of work?

While the business model of individual co-ops might make innovations, they cannot be saved from pressures imposed by market competition. We need to get out of the idealism that individual co-ops can bring solutions to all aspects and become an autonomous and self-sufficient paradise. Advantages of co-operatives can be fully valued only with appropriate institutional frameworks.

Co-operation among co-operatives and with members of local community might bring not only people and resources into co-operatives but also political power for changing and elaborating more people and community-focused policies and institutional frameworks in which co-operatives might realise their full potentiality.

In this article

Join the Conversation