Interview with Rafael Diez de Medina, Director of ILO STATISTICS on Statistics of Cooperatives

News | 10 August 2017

1. Why are statistics on cooperatives important?

Mr Rafael Diez de Medina
Nobody can analyse in a comprehensive and accurate manner the impact of cooperatives on owner-members and on the economy as a whole if we do not have reliable metrics. These datasets can provide evidence on, for example, how cooperatives are performing in comparison with other economic units throughout economic cycles, particularly in reference to decent work. Statistics on cooperatives can also help to better understand how different business models impact on communities and workers, which is a topic of growing interest as demonstrated in the projects and conferences that are taking place in the last few years like the one on Tools to Measure Co-operative Performance and Impact.

Paragraph 8 of the ILO Recommendation 193 concerning the Promotion of Cooperatives encourages governments to ensure that national policies “seek to improve national statistics on cooperatives with a view to the formulation and implementation of development policies”.

At the last 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) held in Geneva in 2013, the agenda included a specific item on statistics on cooperatives. Governments’, workers’ and employers’ representatives reaffirmed the importance of having more comprehensive and (internationally) comparable statistics on cooperatives. They recommended countries to carry out further developmental work on the measurement of cooperatives through administrative registers or establishment or household surveys, and to introduce the topic for more in-depth discussion at the forthcoming 20th ICLS to be hosted in the ILO in 2018.

The ICLS adopted a Resolution concerning further work on statistics of cooperatives, which recommends that the Office, in cooperation with the ILO’s constituents, interested national statistical offices and the cooperative movement carry out further developmental work on the measurement of cooperatives, in particular on their number and characteristics, their membership, their workers and their value added.

2. What is the current state of data collection on cooperatives and what is the ILO doing about improving it?

The ICLS in 2013 provided an opportunity to share experiences on the current production of statistics on cooperatives, as well as on the challenges faced in many countries regarding the coverage, completeness and up-to-datedness of available information. It was noted that although work has been carried out in many countries, particularly as regards the development of national cooperative registers, complete, disaggregated, reliable and comparable statistics on cooperatives are often unavailable.

Since the 19th ICLS, ILO’s Department of Statistics and the Department of Enterprises, through its COOP Unit have jointly undertaken several initiatives to analyse the existing situation of statistics of cooperatives. The availability of, and access to, statistics on this important topic was reviewed in more than 70 countries around the world, covering the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Europe. The sources, producers and data collection methods used were identified and classified by region or by producers.

Based on a taxonomy of existing producers/providers of statistics of cooperatives, a matrix was elaborated on the basis of the data collection methodology used and country case studies were selected to shed more light on the strengths and limitations of the producers and data collection methods used. The different institutional arrangements adopted across countries in gathering statistics on cooperatives were documented in eleven country case studies. These studies show the complexity of the issue in theoretical and operational terms, and the need to have a conceptual framework that could be applied, and /or adapted by most countries in order to get comparable and harmonized data.

More recently, the ILO has partnered with other members of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) , in establishing a multi-stakeholder Technical Working Group (TWG) to improve the quality of statistics on cooperatives, including by working towards a harmonized conceptual framework, definition, and methodology for generating comparable statistics on cooperatives. As the current chair of COPAC, the ILO has commissioned a “conceptual framework” to measure cooperatives that defines and describes the key concepts concerning the identification and classification of cooperatives, including a discussion about core components and boundary areas, for measurement purposes. This framework was presented and discussed during the first meeting the TWG in the ILO in Geneva last May.

3. What are the next steps envisioned in advancing statistics on cooperatives?

Statistics on cooperatives will be discussed by the tripartite constituents during the 20th session of ICLS in October 2018. So we are gearing up in our preparations for that. For that, we will be disseminating the above mentioned studies, including the conceptual framework, to inform the national statistical offices and other labour statisticians and delegates who will be at the 20th ICLS. With the other members of COPAC we have also launched a country briefing note series on statistics on cooperatives to improve the understanding of the ways in which countries around the world are producing and using statistics on cooperatives.

More importantly we will present a preliminary set of guidelines, with inputs from the COPAC TWG, focusing on collecting reliable and comparable statistics, in order to shed light on the contributions of cooperatives to employment and economies across the world. We look forward to having a fruitful discussion on how to advance statistics on cooperatives and help them to reach their full potential toward improving the lives of people suffering from poverty and inequality.