“As Quebec's largest private employer, Desjardins Group is proud to have sponsored the CICOPA study,” said Chair of the Board, President and CEO Monique F. Leroux. “The study confirms that the cooperative business model creates jobs—high-quality jobs that contribute to the economic stability and sustainable prosperity of the countries in which cooperatives operate.”

The special feature of the study remains the fact that it merges figures and feelings. It analyses both the objective data available on cooperative employment and the subjective perception of the people working in or within the scope of those enterprises, including of the most diverse profiles, for example: worker-members in a worker cooperative in the construction sector, employees of a consumer cooperative, farmers who are members of an agricultural cooperative, employees of a cooperative bank.

The three authors spent 10 weeks working in 10 regions in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the USA, South Africa, Japan, Korea, India, Italy and Spain, meeting people and observing how employees, worker-members and self-employed producers work and how they relate to their cooperative.

The in-depth interviews they carried out revealed common perceptions that contribute to making the experience of people working in or within the scope of cooperatives different from the one experienced outside cooperative enterprises, resulting from the combination of different characteristics. Among which: a high participation in the work place, a family-like work environment, a culture oriented towards values practiced at work, and a sense of self-identity through one's identification with the cooperative.

The study also examines to what extent these characteristics interact positively with the economic sustainability of cooperatives. Some of the regions visited are characterized by a very high ratio of cooperative employment. It is close to 23% of the total employed population in Gangwon (South Korea) and to 15% in Emilia-Romagna (Italy). Gangwon is considered to be the cradle of the cooperative movement in South Korea. Emilia-Romagna is one of the oldest cooperative clusters in the world and one of the most important industrial districts in Europe, which has managed to maintain its overall competitiveness in spite of the ongoing economic crisis.

According to the study, the particularly high level of cooperative employment in these regions bodes well for the employment potential of the cooperative model elsewhere in the world. Other regions studied during the fieldwork also show a particularly high presence of cooperative employment, such as Santa Fe Province in Argentina with almost 9%, and the Basque Country in Spain with almost 7%.

A lower wage gap compared to other types of enterprises, high security of tenure, a well-balanced distribution of employment between urban and rural areas and a people-centered vision are some of the characteristics that explain the contribution of cooperative employment to employment in general.

“The phenomenon of cooperative employment is sufficiently significant, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for public policies to take stock of this long-lasting experience in terms of creating and strengthening employment”, states Bruno Roelants, Secretary General of CICOPA and co-author of the study. The full study will be available on line by the end of October.

Read the factsheet of the study here