Press release

Co-operatives sustain a tenth of the world's population reveals CICOPA report

Co-operatives employ almost 10 per cent of the world’s population a new report has revealed.

Based on data from 156 countries, the estimate shows that employment in or within the scope of co-operatives concerns at least 279.4 million people across the globe - equating to 9.46 oer cent of the world’s employed population. The figures are revealed in CICOPA's second global report on Co-operatives and Employment.

Some 27.2 million work in co-operatives, including around 16 million co-operative employees and 11.1 million worker-members. Employment within the scope of co-operatives, comprising mainly self-employed producer-members, concerns over 252.2 million people with the vast majority being in agriculture.

Using data sourced from Co-operatives UK's annual Co-operative Economy report, almost 7,000 co-operatives operate in the UK, with in excess of 220,000 people directly employed by co-ops and a further 94,000 worker-members. John Lewis Partnership and Co-op Group are the UK's biggest co-operatives based on annual turnover. 

Bruno Roelants, Secretary General of CICOPA, said: "Employment is one of the most important contributions made by co-operatives throughout the world. This report shows that people involved in co-operatives constitute a sufficiently high percentage to be considered as 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 co-operatives throughout the world totals 2.94 million with the number of members in all types of co-operatives at 1,217.5 million. The report also examines the specific contributions to addressing problems related to work and employment in the informal economy.

It finds that people working in the informal economy who join savings and credit co-operatives, mutual insurance co-operatives, multi-purpose co-operatives and consumer co-operatives have easier access to credit, education and training, affordable goods and services - as well as a certain level of social protection based on solidarity and mutual help.

Self-employed producers and entrepreneurs who join shared service co-operatives gain access to various services which help them attain economies of scale and a higher bargaining power. For the rapidly expanding number of self-employed and freelancer workers, co-operatives could be used as an organising tool while also providing innovative models toguarantee both flexibility and protection.

Worker co-operatives, which aim at providing decent jobs to their worker-members, can be a direct solution to the formalisation of informal employment. However, to fully display the potential contributions of the co-operatives "a favourable environment and an appropriate legal framework are necessary" and "the co-operative model should be better explained to trade unions, member-based organisations, NGOs and local governments" the report concludes.