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Worker, social and producers’ cooperatives, a way to fight social exclusion for young people?

30 May 2016 [ English ] français ]

Cooperatives can be part of the solution for the younger generations in Europe, as they are facing the highest levels of unemployment and precarious jobs. This statement is part of the report recently published by the European Youth Forum, “Social inclusion and young people – excluding youth: a threat to our future”.

In this report, the European Youth Forum points out that Europe’s social model, which “should provide a safety net for everyone”, is broken. It highlights the fact that welfare state interventions are no longer supporting young people, but instead are actually stopping them from achieving autonomy, and that this has a serious impact not just on individual young persons, but on European society as a whole.

Young people today are increasingly facing long-term unemployment straight out of education, or are employed in internships or short-term work that does not allow them to contribute to the system and therefore cuts off their access to social protection”, is the summary they provide in a press release. “Even where young people are eligible for income support, the support given is not enough to keep them above the poverty line. In OECD countries, around 20% of young people live in poverty”.

Today, young people fall too often into a trap of non-standard forms of employment, leading to social and economic insecurity. The European Youth Forum expresses an interest in the “new relations to work” provided by cooperatives as a way to offer more guarantees regarding self-employment, which is one of the sources of precarious work.

“Across Europe an increasing amount of young freelancers or independent professionals (graphic designers, journalists, artists, interpreters, etc.) are creating cooperative enterprises in order to secure their employment situation”, says the report. “Through a cooperative, they can benefit from social security while enjoying the flexibility to develop their own activity at the same time. They share the risks and the benefits with other young people, applying the values of solidarity and democracy at the workplace”.

The report also explains that “through support to the creation of cooperatives, public policies can also contribute to young people’s security and autonomy”.

The specific example given is that of the cooperative Coopaname, in France. This enterprise “was created in 2004 and gathers around 750 people, freelancers and self-employed, who share common services such as accountancy, legal advice, support for the development of entrepreneurial activities, common work space and utilities. Together they build a common, democratic and demanding business, their objective being to give greater collective protection to its members (labour law, vocational training, risk pooling, and social solidarity)”.

Furthermore, social and worker cooperatives have a long tradition in fighting the social exclusion of young people through the provision of social services to those in need (student accommodation and affordable food, training, job-search services, social services for young migrants etc.) and work integration of marginalized groups of young people.

The European Youth Forum is the platform of youth organisations in Europe. Independent, democratic and youth-led, it represents 102 National Youth Councils and international youth organisations from across the continent. The Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in society to improve their own lives, by representing and advocating their needs and interests and those of their organisations towards the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.