A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

The ILO views cooperatives as important in improving the living and working conditions of women and men globally as well as making essential infrastructure and services available even in areas neglected by the state and investor-driven enterprises. Cooperatives have a proven record of creating and sustaining employment – they are estimated to provide at least 250 million jobs today; they contribute to promoting decent work and advancing sustainable development goals. The ILO activities are guided by the international standard on cooperatives, the ILO Recommendation on the Promotion of Cooperatives, 2002 (R.193).

Focus on this August

  1. International Youth Day

    Rediscovering cooperatives: Young people finding work the cooperative way

    29 July 2016

  2. International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

    A cooperative way for empowering indigenous peoples

    29 July 2016

    This brief is the fifth in the Cooperatives and World of Work series of ILO COOP. It was developed as part of a joint initiative between COOP and GED. It is available in the three languages of the ILO in time for  August 9, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Follow up steps include use of cooperative development tools in the context of ongoing/upcoming projects around advancing social and economic rights of indigenous peoples.

A bit of history

  1. Cooperative History Timeline

    Discover history timeline which navigates milestones of the cooperative movement and the ILO's work on promotion of cooperatives from the 18th century to date.

  2. Highlights on Cooperatives


  1. ILO Message on Cooperative and Social Economy Legislation in Greece