Interview with Ramin Behzad, member of COPAC Technical Working Group on Statistics of Cooperatives
The ILO has joined forces with other members of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) to improve statistics on cooperatives. They are working towards developing guidelines on the measurement of cooperatives to be presented at the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in October 2018. ILO COOP interviewed Mr Ramin Behzad, member of COPAC Technical Working Group on Statistics of Cooperatives, on the importance, the challenges and the outlook of its work.
1. Could you tell us briefly about yourself?
My university studies are in the areas of Statistics (Ph.D.) and Actuarial Science (M.Sc.). I have been working for the Iranian Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare (MCLSW) since 2002. I served as a labour statistician and then as the deputy of the Labour Market Information and Statistics Center of the MCLSW. While working in the MCLSW, I also conducted research on labour topics. I am currently serving as the representative of my country, i.e. labour counselor, in the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Before taking this position, I was teaching statistical courses at Allameh Tabatabae’i University, Tehran, Iran.
2. How have you gotten involved in statistics on cooperatives?
Cooperatives have a high standing in Iran. The constitutional law emphasizes the role of cooperatives in the economy preparing the ground for advancement of cooperatives throughout the country. In the same vein, development of cooperatives is one of the priorities of the MCLSW. Having said that, it is essential to produce reliable statistics on cooperatives in order to monitor the progress made. To this end, development of a methodology for collecting reliable statistics on cooperatives has been a component of the National Strategy for Enhancement of Statistics. In this regard, a Satellite Account of Cooperatives was developed by the MCLSW and the Statistical Centre of Iran. It was how we engaged with statistics on cooperatives in the Ministry.
3. Why do you think statistics on cooperatives are needed?
Cooperatives have demonstrated their ability to generate sustainable employment and decent work, delivering on Sustainable Development Goals. We are keen on advancing cooperatives for sustainable development and there is an international standard in this respect, the ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193). Therefore, it is essential to produce reliable statistics on cooperatives to see how policies and programmes translate into action. By improving statistics on cooperatives, further research will be feasible allowing us to gain more insight into their characteristics and their role in the economy. Such analysis will inform what is needed to create an enabling environment for promotion of cooperatives.
4. What is the work that you have been doing in this Technical Working Group (TWG)?
In order to produce statistics on cooperatives, it is vital to devise a transparent definition on cooperatives. It should be noted that Recommendation No. 193 has already provided a definition on cooperatives but, in order to materialize development of statistics on cooperatives, a statistical definition is needed. This definition needs to be robust and accurate to ensure international comparability of the statistics. It is worth mentioning that the 19th Session of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in 2013 included cooperatives in its agenda for the first time and accordingly adopted a Resolution calling for further developmental work on statistics of cooperatives. Iran has been very supportive of this initiative. Since then, efforts have been made to examine approaches of a number of countries in producing statistics on cooperatives. The TWG first consolidated a conceptual framework. It also examined questions around membership, employment, economic contributions and classification of cooperatives.
5. What are the challenges to statistics on cooperatives?
At this juncture, there is a dearth of statistics on cooperatives at global level. Lack of a statistical definition may be the main reason. Nevertheless, it seems that the existing statistical methods are not able in some cases to fully capture the nature of cooperatives. To overcome this challenge, a tailor-made method, for instance the Satellite Account, is required. I think statistics on cooperatives need to be part and parcel of Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS). Efforts should be made to realize this ambition because it would help promote statistics on cooperatives worldwide.
6. Who are the target audiences for the work of the Technical Working Group?
First, the outcome of the TWG or the guideline is to be submitted to the 20th Session of the ICLS in October 2018 discussion and adoption. Then, the National Statistical Offices and the Ministries or Organizations dealing with statistics on cooperatives would be in a position to apply the guidelines. By improving statistics on cooperatives, the policy makers would be in a position to understand the contributions of cooperatives, which can lead to more effective decisions and policies. Others like national cooperative movements and cooperative and other research institutes would also benefit from improved statistics on cooperatives.. Quality statistics on cooperatives can also serve those who wish to establish a cooperative by making them conversant with the world of cooperatives.
7. What do you hope this work to achieve?
It is hoped that this work will set the stage for advancement of statistics on cooperatives worldwide. This achievement may be heralded as a major breakthrough in promotion of cooperatives. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the custodians and the member of the TWG for their valuable efforts and inputs in advancing this work.