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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 December

  1. International Day Persons with Disabilities

    Cooperatives and the World of Work No. 3 - At work together: The cooperative advantage for people with disabilities

    3 December 2016

     This brief is part of the ILO COOP Cooperatives and the World of Work series. It has been produced in partnership with the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch (GED) at the ILO.

  2. International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development

    ILO Resources on Cooperatives in the Rural Economy

    5 December 2016

    The ILO considers cooperatives as instrumental in providing opportunities for productive and decent employment and improving the living and working conditions of women and men in rural areas. Cooperatives can play an important role in the promotion of rural entrepreneurship, business development and employment creation.

  3. International Migrants Day

    Cooperatives offer migrant workers options for better lives

    18 December 2016

    Cooperative enterprises have improved the lives of women and men migrant workers and their families for decades. Migrants find income and jobs, access affordable goods and services and find empowerment through cooperative enterprises, participating in the cooperative movement.

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