ILO COOP 100 Symposium - Session 4: Statistics of cooperatives and social and solidarity economy (SSE)

The fourth session of the two-day symposium focused on statistics of cooperatives and SSE. The session was chaired by Hakki Ozel, Head of Statistical Coordination and Special Topics Unit of the ILO's Department of Statistics.

The first speaker, Prof. Marie J. Bouchard presented her paper titled “Towards harmonized statistics of cooperatives and other SSE organizations”. She noted that statistics are needed to justify public support and to calibrate policy on cooperative and SSE development. She underlined that many countries lack harmonized data on cooperatives and SSE. She suggested that there is growing international interest in measuring cooperatives and SSE. To develop measurement of cooperatives and SSE, international mapping and conceptual frameworks of different segments of SSE are being conducted. She delved into the work that led to the development of the guidelines for statistics of cooperatives. The ILO is currently testing the guidelines and will produce an international handbook on cooperatives statistics in time for the 21st International Conference of Labour Statisticians. On statistics of SSE the current state of data and knowledge is being analyzed and policy recommendations are being developed through an ongoing initiative.

The second speaker, Hyungsik Eum presented his paper on “Producing statistics on work and employment in cooperatives”. Mr Eum noted that historically, members of producers’ cooperatives were included in the International Classification of Status in Employment (ICSE-93). But this concept only captured producers’ cooperatives in collective economic system as it relates to previous communist regimes. As time evolves, this old concept is no longer used. In his research, taking into account the previous research and the changing world of work, a broader concept – “different forms of work performed by different categories of persons in cooperatives and in related economic units” was proposed and included in the guidelines concerning statistic on cooperatives and resolution concerning statistics on work relationships (ICSE-18).

He noted that two important dimensions (“categories of persons performing their work in cooperatives” and “statistic units”) can be applied to identify different of forms of work and employment in and within the scope of cooperatives. In reality things can be complex such as taxi cooperatives which could be counted in different ways in different countries due to the gap between the legal status and statistical concepts. This is what we need to improve. Data sources and data collection methods on statistic cooperatives is another challenge.
Further work to be undertaken includes implementing the guidelines in existing data collection practices, pilot testing with current statistical systems and deepening the concept of “members’ work”.

Session 4 Presenters
The third and final speaker in the session Ilcheong Yi, presented on “Sustainable Development Performance Indicators for SSE”. He noted that there are three measuring systems: measuring social (and environmental) impacts; measuring social (and environmental) values; and measuring social (and environmental) performance. He pointed out the issues of these measurement systems in the context of SSE such as materiality, reporting burden and mission drift. He then proposed three suggested solutions: cluster approach, system of correspondence approach and transformative indicators.

He noted that UNRISD’s four-year project on Sustainable Development Performance Indicators (SDPI) will be tested by 12 for-profit companies, 12 SSE organizations and enterprises starting in 2021. The selection of testing economic entities is on-going. SDPI includes a three-tier system of indicators: numerator indicators, denominator indicators and transformative indicators

In the question and answer session, Marie Bouchard indicated that we need to find a third way of understanding statistics on SSE. These are not just not-for-profit organizations, but powerful tools to reduce inequalities. The issue of limited lucrativity is not only about limiting or prohibiting profit distribution, but it is about enabling a more equitable way of distributing wealth.

In response to a question on what can cooperative movement do to advance the understanding on the guidelines on statistics of cooperatives, Hyungsik Eum, noted that currently there is no global initiative to collect statistics on cooperatives but regions and countries have their own projects. It is still difficult for non-statisticians to understand the guidelines. Each national cooperative movement has their own understanding. And every country has its own legal framework. We need to invest more time and energy to promote these guidelines and make operational manuals for practitioners. The ICA needs to work with the ILO to promote the guidelines.

In responding to a question on the path to be used for statistics on SSE, Marie Bouchard noted that a non-profit handbook has been recognized by the UN. It has been used and produced comparable statistics on the non-profit organizations in voluntary sector. There is a manual for cooperatives and mutual societies which is complementary to the 2003 manual on the Multidimensional Poverty Index. These two tools can be used to create statistics on social economy as is the case in Portugal.

Session 4 Presenters
The issue is that social and solidarity economy enterprises are different in different countries of the world. If the notion is too broad and blurry, it’s not practical for statistics. So we need to find a balance between simplicity and complexity. The next step would be to discuss with statisticians to make a mutual understanding of the nature and the operational elements of this broad concept with regard to statistics.

To a question on cluster analysis of SSE in South Africa, and on how to improve the questionnaire design for future research, Ilcheong Yi indicated that it is good to develop comprehensive surveys which include questions that measure the performance of individual organizations, the capacity of comparison, the capacity to measure the transformative functions and roles. That will contribute to better standardized performance or system of indicator or statistics. The key issue is how to make much more equity balance to capture both uniformity and diversity.

In responding to a question on the most important statistical information on cooperatives, Hyungsik Eum mentioned number of cooperatives, number of members, information about employment, and information on economic performance. The COPAC technical working group on statistics of cooperatives comprises of government agencies in charge of cooperatives and national statistical office, cooperative movement representatives, researchers and experts. Similar multistakeholder dialogue needs to take place at national level to secure statistics of cooperatives.

In responding to the same question, Marie J. Bouchard mentioned the value of longitudinal information on cooperatives such as how long did they live or how long did they hold on their capital. One study in Quebec was to measure the comparable lifetime of cooperatives in relation to corporate enterprises. The results indicated that cooperatives live longer and even survived the 2008 economic crisis.