Co-ops help to address unemployment, CECOP tells European Commission

Cecop reacted to an evaluation published by the European Commission in April this year.

The European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives (Cecop) has published a paper which highlights the sector’s contribution to tacking long-term unemployment.

The trade body highlighted that many of its member co-operatives operated in the field of labour integration of disadvantaged groups not just by providing jobs. It explained how social co-operatives within its network, such as those in Italy, invested in training and providing tailored jobs for people with specific needs, including those with disabilities or facing social exclusion. Italy alone has around 4,000 social co-operatives that facilitate labour integration, employing 60,000 people, 30% of them disadvantaged workers.

Cecop also highlighted how, through joining a worker co-op, employees can become worker owners and have a stake in the business. Such worker co-ops are often set up by workers who have been made redundant, it said.

The paper is a reaction to an evaluation published by the European Commission in April this year.

In 2015 the European Commission proposed a consultation to the Council of the European Union, which includes government ministers from each EU country. The consultation focuses on the provision of services to the long-term unemployed. At the time Cecop responded to the Commission’s proposal by issuing a reaction paper in which it pointed out the role of co-ops in helping to scourge long-term unemployment.

The Commission’s suggestions were later reflected in a Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed, published in February 2016.

This recommendation called on member states to encourage registration of the long-term unemployed with an employment service, increase individualised support and ensure delivery of a job-integration agreement within 18 months, coordinate available services through a single point of contact and encourage the development of partnerships between employers, social partners and services, authorities and training providers.

In April 2019 the Commission reported to the Council on the implementation’s state of play at member states’ level. The Commission’s evaluation points out that since the adoption of the Recommendation, 15 Member States have improved the quality of their measures encouraging registration of those unemployed while 12 enhanced the quality of measures for individual assessments of those unemployed. Long-term unemployment within the EU went from 5.2% in 2013 to 3.5% in 2017.

According to the evaluation, in more than half of the public employment services, the long-term unemployed receive more tailored individual assessments and guidance than other unemployed groups.

The Commission also notes that the Recommendation has intensified efforts to ensure more joined-up service delivery, with 17 Member States improving the quality of their measures in this area. Since the Recommendation, 14 Member States have improved the quality of their measures to increase employer involvement.

The evaluation also suggests ways forward to strengthen implementation, including intensifying employer involvement and supporting the development of social enterprises offering job and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed.

Responding to the evaluation, CECOP argued that while the general trend was positive, figures did not take into account the type and duration of contracts of those formerly unemployed who manage to secure jobs.

Cecop welcomed the Commission’s recommendation to intensify the involvement of employers, particularly by supporting social enterprises, but added that the role of co-ops and the social economy enterprises had not been specifically taken into account in the evaluation framework.