Ideas to boost industrial and service co-operatives in Asia-Pacific

A report from ICA Asia Pacific and Cicopa analyses existing systems and institutional settings around co-operatives in industrial and service sectors (CIS)

A report on industrial and service co-operatives in Asia-Pacific provides a series of recommendationsto help the sector thrive.

The report followed a year of joint research by the International Cooperative Alliance Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) and the International Organisation of the Industrial and Service Cooperatives (Cicopa), the sector organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

The study recognises the different forms of co-operatives in industrial and service sectors in the Asia-Pacific Region with the aim of understanding the various characteristics of these co-operatives, particularly around the different forms of work, employment, ownership and governance structures. It identifies 38 types of co-operatives from 12 Asia-Pacific countries that are or might be considered as co-operatives in industrial and service sectors (CIS).

The paper also provides a thorough analysis of existing systems and institutional settings around CIS and looks at the role of co-operatives in contributing to the decent work.

Recommendations include recognising co-operatives, including CIS, as enterprises and enacting new legislations for CIS with a clear definition of CIS in line with international conventions and standards. The report also calls on public authorities in certain countries to respect co-operative autonomy and independence, abandoning paternalistic approaches or attempts to control these co-ops. Including social protections, providing employment rights and focusing on fostering decent work should also be top priorities for legislators in the Asia-Pacific region, adds the report.

It found that a critical barrier for establishing worker co-operatives is the requirement of a high number of minimum founding members. The report argued that a minimum of 3-5 founding members is desirable to facilitate co-operative start-ups among young co-operative entrepreneurs.

Other measures include the introduction of public policies that foster the development of CIS, such as indivisible reserves, financing co-operative start-up with worker-members’ unemployment benefit and promotion of worker buyout. Authorities in charge of co-operatives across various ministries should also promote the co-operative enterprise model, says the report.

Rather than imposing too many prescribed norms, the report recommends that public authorities develop monitoring methods for checking whether CIS are managed in line with the co-operative principles and the principle of decent work, and whether their decisions are based on their members’ democratic and responsible discussions not on someone else’s interest.

ICA-AP and CICOPA hope the report will be “an important step to make a full picture of industrial and service co-operatives at the global level” and help the co-operative movement to better understand and promote these co-operatives, which they see as important parts of their movement that deserve more recognition.

The full report is available of ICA-AP’s website.

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