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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).

What's new

  1. Document

    ILO Resources on Cooperating out of Child Labour

    17 January 2017

  2. Spotlight on Cooperatives

    Cooperative Journalism in Greece

    22 December 2016

  3. News

    A Passion. A Mission. Organizing Waste Pickers.

    21 December 2016

Focus on this January

  1. COOP Africa Working Paper No. 19 with ILO/AIDS

    16 January 2017

    The cooperative model for the delivery of home based care services for people living with HIV.

  2. Global Mapping of the Provision of Care through Cooperatives: Survey and Interview Findings

    13 January 2017

    Cooperatives are emerging as an innovative type of care provider, particularly in the absence of viable public or other private options.

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