A new study published by CICOPA, the International Co-operative Alliance’s sectoral body for industry and services, as part of its campaign, “We own it! The future of work is ours,” indicates that the cooperative economy is providing quality employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.
Based on research and an online survey of 64 youth cooperatives across five continents, the study indicates that—in a world of work deeply reshaped by demographic changes, globalization, technological innovations and youth unemployment—cooperatives can be a concrete tool in the hands of young people for improving their work and entrepreneurship opportunities.
The study also reveals a dynamic picture of youth cooperatives who took part in the survey. They are primarily active in the service sector, and are highly involved in activities requiring a certain degree of training, specialized knowledge and skills (e.g. telecommunications and information technologies, programming, legal and accounting activities, management, consultancy, research and marketing). In most cases, they are micro or small-sized enterprises and have reported a positive economic performance and increasing or stable trends in job creation in recent years. They reveal gender equity in management positions and are extremely keen to implement new organizational methods in their business practices (e.g. workplace organization and governance practices).
Their cooperative choice is justified by a mix of value-based and pragmatic motivations: meaningful work (to “work differently”), experience and values-related aspirations, but also concrete need for stable jobs, career opportunities and protection. This picture, albeit partial, strongly suggests that youth cooperatives are riding the wave of changes and represent a valuable and secure option for young entrepreneurs.
The global study also shows how cooperatives can play a crucial role in responding to new challenges introduced by recent work and economic transformations affecting new generations. For example, they can inject democracy and participation inside the digital economy, by giving ownership and control to the people who use and work through online platforms. Through their participatory governance, they are a laboratory in the hands of young people for the experimentation of innovative and sustainable forms of work.
However, the study concludes, cooperatives should not be considered a panacea. Besides the important and increasing involvement coming from the cooperative movement to address youth needs, cooperatives are only able to display their full potential if they exist in a favorable institutional environment. This is particularly true when it comes to providing quality employment and entrepreneurship, which is highly dependent on the institutional frameworks regulating cooperatives, the legal status of young workers and worker-members, and access to financial resources and user-friendly bureaucracy.
Read the “Global Study on Youth Cooperative Entrepreneurship” here.