UNRISD Conference

The true potential of the social and solidarity economy

Cooperatives and social enterprises can help expand decent work and job opportunities, says ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Press release | 06 May 2013
GENEVA – ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, has called for a better understanding of how the social and solidarity economy (SSE) – which includes cooperatives, social enterprises and mutual benefit organizations – can have a positive impact on the economy.

Speaking at the opening of a conference organized by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the ILO, Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy, Ryder said decent work was at risk from austerity, which had been pursued by many governments in response to the economic crisis.

“We need to have a deeper understanding of what social and solidarity economy enterprises and organizations can offer to secure the expansion of decent and productive employment opportunities in a sustainable framework.”

The social and solidarity economy can be a key building block for a jobs-oriented recovery strategy."
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
He outlined four critical areas where SSEs can make a positive difference through joint action: the economic crisis, youth unemployment, the informal economy and rural employment.

ILO research, he said, had shown that financial cooperatives had been resilient in the crisis and that workers’ cooperatives had grown and survived in several countries.

“In Europe alone, the social and solidarity economy provides paid employment to over 14.5 million people or about 6.5 per cent of total European paid employment. The social and solidarity economy can therefore be a key building block for a jobs-oriented recovery strategy.”

Ryder said that with close to 75 million young people out of work and millions neither in employment, education or training (NEETs), cooperatives and the social economy, “can provide youth with gainful wage and self-employment,” helped by an “enabling environment” for businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises.

Ryder also pointed to SSE’s as having the potential to act as a bridge for workers and enterprises to get out of the informal economy, since many cooperatives start as informal group enterprises and grow to become viable businesses.

In rural areas – home to 75 per cent of the world’s poor – cooperatives, mutual benefit societies and microfinance organizations are key actors in addressing the goals of poverty reduction, food security and social inclusion, Ryder said.

He said that the ILO is ready to play a leading role in helping to achieve better strategies and interventions in the social and solidarity economy.