ILO publishes new report on the future of work

The report explores the contribution of the social and solidarity economy and social finance

A new publication from the International Labour Organization (ILO) explores how the social and solidarity economy (SSE) is contributing to the future of work. Published on 23 March, the report is the result of a joint research initiative between the ILO and the French Ministry of Economy in charge of Social and Solidarity Economy.

The research is based on 12 original case studies on SSE organisations and social finance mechanisms initiated between 1934 and 2014, carried out in nine countries – Argentina, Belgium, France, Morocco, Senegal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea.

The publication reveals a high degree of satisfaction related to working conditions and the feeling of working for meaningful purposes, particularly in comparison with similar functions they used to occupy in conventional private or public structures.

The study also shows how a policy framework recognising the added value of the SSE to employment and social welfare can create favourable conditions for the SSE to contribute to societal issues. Several case studies show the added value of the SSE in supporting and organising workers and entrepreneurs while preserving their entrepreneurial autonomy.

Furthermore, the collective dimension of the SSE allows workers and entrepreneurs – especially the most vulnerable in rural areas – to develop and diversify their businesses by combining them with complementary income-generating activities. The study also shows that the SSE plays an important role in terms of facilitating social protection coverage.

Another core characteristic of the SSE is participatory governance; the report’s case studies reflect this diversity and the consequences it brings about.

The study also reveals that SSE helps workers find meaningfulness in work. Furthermore, through crowdfunding, complementary currency, Social Impact Bonds, original financial models (like flat rates in health care) or subsidies, the SSE is a major source of innovation as regards the financing of social policies, argues the report.

All these features enable the SSE to positively anticipate and react in a more protective way to the changing world of work, argues the research.

Based on their findings, the authors make several recommendations for strategies to boost the contribution of the SSE to the future of work.

To the SSE sector, the report suggests diversifying their activities and sources of financing – without putting their autonomy and their purposes, particularly in terms of employment, at risk. It also points out that the SSE sector needs to pay more heed to environmental issues and carry out reflexive work to assess how to enhance decent work in the SSE, in terms of social protection and working conditions.

Innovation around new statuses of workers or entrepreneurs should, therefore, not contribute to deconstructing existing social security systems, but rather to updating them and reviewing their modes and sources of funding at national level, adds the report.

The study also makes recommendations to national governments.

These include:

  • policies and measures to support the SSE in the diversity of its forms, while ensuring coherence of all public policies implemented in relation to the objectives of supporting the SSE;
  • enacting and financing in the long-term measures to support the social economy; promoting new forms of financing mechanisms for the SSE;
  • and direct their development co-operation efforts more towards SSE initiatives in low income countries.

To the ILO itself, the report recommends:

  • contributing to provide more systematic and critical information on the SSE; carrying out specific studies on working conditions within the SSE;
  • encouraging the SSE, trade unions and governments to reflect on forms of social dialogue and ways of representing workers adapted to the SSE;
  • and advocating the meaningfulness and the quality of work as experienced in the SSE as a model for the future of work in other sectors of employment.