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Co-ops Now Employ 10 Percent of the Global Population

Cooperatives now employ almost 10 percent of the world’s population. Based on data from 156 countries, the updated estimate shows that employment in or within the scope of cooperatives includes at least 279.4 million people across the globe, or approximately 9.46 percent of the world’s employed population.

These are some of the results of the second global report on Cooperatives and Employment, released by CICOPA, the international organization of industrial and service cooperatives.

Out of this figure, 27.2 million work in cooperatives, including around 16 million cooperative employees and 11.1 million worker-owners. Employment within the scope of cooperatives—comprising mainly self-employed producer-members—includes over 252.2 million people, the vast majority of whom work in agriculture.

Bruno Roelants, Secretary General of CICOPA, said, “Employment is one of the most important contributions made by cooperatives throughout the world. This report shows that people involved in cooperatives constitute a sufficiently high percentage to be considered a major actor in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as in the worldwide debate on the ‘future of work’ launched by the International Labour Organization.”

The number of cooperatives throughout the world is 2.94 million and the number of members in all types of cooperatives totals 1,217.5 million.

The report also examines the specific contributions to addressing problems related to work and employment in the informal economy:

  • People working in the informal economy who join savings and credit cooperatives, mutual insurance cooperatives, multi-purpose cooperatives and consumer cooperatives have easier access to credit, education and training, affordable goods and services to meet their basic needs and a certain level of social protection based on solidarity and mutual help.
  • Self-employed producers and entrepreneurs who join shared service cooperatives gain access to various services that help them attain economies of scale and higher bargaining power.
  • For the self-employed workers and freelancers who have considerably increased in number over the past decades, cooperatives could be used by trade unions or member-based organizations as a tool to organize them, but could also provide innovative models that could guarantee both flexibility and protection.
  • Worker cooperatives, which aim to provide decent jobs to their worker-owners, can be a direct solution to the formalization of informal employment.

However, to fully display the potential contributions of the cooperatives, “a favorable environment and an appropriate legal framework are necessary” and “the co-operative model should be better explained to trade unions, member-based organizations, NGOs and local governments,” the report concludes.

Additionally, the study intends to improve the methodology and the quality of cooperative statistics—an especially timely goal, given that the next International Congress of Labour Statisticians will take place this year. The report urges leaders in the cooperative space to pay particular attention to the upcoming event.

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