While global unemployment has risen above 200m, co-operatives provide jobs for at least 250m across the world.
According to a report published by CICOPA, the International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Cooperatives, more than 250m people work in co-operatives, either as employees (15m) or worker-members (11m), while close to 224m producers are members of co-operatives.
Bruno Roelants, secretary general of CICOPA, launching the report at International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec, said the study addresses “the question, to what extent are co-operatives contributing to the creation and consolidation of employment?”
It gathers data from 74 countries and covers 79% of the world’s population. He explained that, although “the data is incomplete,” it builds on previous estimates and provides the most reliable figures on co-operative employment to date.
That said, he added it is likely that the number of people employed by co-operatives is higher. Not only is data unavailable in some countries, but the figures for the number of producer members of co-operatives were likely to be an underestimate. “There are 224 million self-employed people within the scope of co-operatives. Although their transactions through the co-op might not necessarily by 100%, often a family works with them, so figures are almost certainly higher.”
The data gathered by CICOPA also shows that co-operatives has proven to be more resilient in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, with worker co-operatives in particular experiencing a significant surge in employment. In G20 countries, co-operatives account for 12% of the employment figure. In regions like Emilia-Romagna in Italy, around 15% of the population works in co-ops.
Respondents interviewed by the organisation, who either work in co-operatives or within the scope of co-operatives, highlighted a number of characteristics of working for a co-operative that, CICOPA suggests, distinguish co-operative employment.
These include a sense of participation, of being part of a family, a quest for efficiency, flexibility, a fit with values, a sense of pride and a strong sense of identity.
The report does, however, recognise that not all co-operatives offer the same levels of employment, with management capabilities and labour standards in particular varying between countries and co-operative models.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations, from encouraging governments to include co-operative employment in labour statistics to promoting co-operatives as a means of creating “decent and sustainable” employment.
- For more updates from the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives, click here