International Workers’ Day, 1st May 2018

International Workers’ Day, 1st May 2018

The International Cooperative Alliance serves and represents over three million co-operatives and over 1.2 billion co-operative members around the world, in all sectors of the economy.

The challenges of the future of work: how co-operatives can be part of the solution

On International Workers’ Day (1st May), the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) is celebrating the commitment of co-operators towards creating sustainable jobs and formal work, lowering income inequality, and showing their capacity to be a large laboratory experimenting with innovative and sustainable forms of work.

The world is suffering from high levels of unemployment and underemployment, particularly among youth. There is also increased job insecurity, a deterioration of social protection and widening inequalities.

But co-operatives, as one of the biggest actors in work representing almost 10% of the world’s workforce, can be part of the solution to many of the challenges of the future of work.

As people-centred enterprises owned and run by, and for, their members (who may be customers, employees, users or residents), co-operatives are democratically managed and controlled. Co-operatives’ inherent capacity to innovate and adapt themselves towards meet community needs can be a tool to bringing democracy, equality and sustainability into the workplace.

“Technological changes, the knowledge-based economy, big data and de-localization are, among others, factors that are quickly impacting the world of work – and we still have to take into account issues such as the gender pay gap and, modern slavery, which affects people of all genders and all ages across the world.

“Co-operatives offer another paradigm, where inclusion, participation and growth go hand in hand, ICA President Ariel Guarco declared recently.


The ICA has welcomed the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Centenary Initiative with its focus on the Future of Work, and within this context, the establishment of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.


The co-operative movement has presented a position paper on the Global Commission’s Inception Report, called Cooperatives and the Future of Work, showing the relevance of co-operatives in work and employment, and has proposed policy recommendations aimed at promoting co-operatives’ contributions towards the future of work.

 What are the characteristics of co-operative work?

Regarding the attributes of work that people value, the report Co-operatives and Employment: a Global Report reveals that people working within the framework of co-operatives in different parts of the world, feel “a combination of economic rationale, a quest for efficiency, shared flexibility, a sense of participation, a family-type environment, pride and reputation, a strong sense of identity and a focus on values.”


This report was published by CICOPA, the sectoral organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance for industry and services, and its qualitative section is based on a series of interviews.

Co-operatives have also been working with vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and refugees, contributing to employment creation and work integration. As the ILO has pointed out, co-operatives in several countries have been actively integrating migrants into the workforce or providing them with support, including in reducing health and psycho-social risks.

  • Cooperative Business NZ fully supports and acknowledges International Workers’ Day.