ILO COOP 100 Symposium - Session 6: Quantitative Studies on Cooperatives

The sixth session of the two-day symposium focused on quantitative studies on cooperatives and was chaired by Hyungsik Eum.

The first speaker was Nathalie Magne presenting her paper “A Positive or Zero-Sum Game? Social and Market Outcomes of Worker Cooperatives in Knowledge-Intensive Industries”. Ms Magne’s presentation focused on market performance and social outcomes (particularly income inequality) of worker cooperatives in knowledge intensive industries in France, compared to conventional firms. There is some evidence that shows the value of self-managing organizations in knowledge intensive environments; that less hierarchical firms facilitate adaptability and flexibility in project-based work; and that diminished hierarchy encourages knowledge exchange. Therefore, workers cooperatives could fare better in this industry.

Using market performance and social performance models based on different measurements the paper found: In low knowledge intensity industries, conventional firms are more efficient than cooperatives; but in high knowledge intensity industries, cooperatives are more efficient than conventional firms. The research also showed that there is lower inequality in cooperatives than in conventional firms in both low knowledge intensity and high knowledge intensity industries, but the gap is bigger in high knowledge intensity. Ms Magne concluded that cooperatives are both more productive and more egalitarian in knowledge intensive industries and that it does not seem to be trade-off between economic and social goals of cooperatives.

The second paper titled “Skills Audit among Leaders of Multi-Purpose Cooperatives (MPCS) in Dire Enchini Woreda, West Shoa Zone of Oromia Regional State” was presented by Dr. Muthu Karthikeyan. The study assessed the skills inventory of cooperative leaders in selected MPCS; measured the level of importance and proficiency of leadership skill sets of cooperative leaders; and analyzed the determinants of leadership skill level among leaders of MPCS in the study area. The study found six variables to be significant in influencing leadership skills levels: education, training, duration of leadership, leaders’ participation to cooperative management, motivation, and leaders’ participation in social activities.

Dr. Muthu Karthikeyan concluded his presentation with recommendations regarding the need to: Pay special attention to cooperative leadership training; Pursue experience sharing and exposure; Put in place skills development programmes; Design cooperative leadership development strategies; Advocate for the inclusion of women in management and other committees; and Integrate efforts of governmental and non-government organizations as stakeholders.

The third paper was presented by David Prince Popoola on “Cooperative Membership and Multidimensional Poverty among Poultry Framing Households in Southwest Nigeria, Evidence from Oyo State”. Mr. Popoola presented the study that was conducted in Southwest Nigeria to examine the impact of cooperative membership on the poverty status of poultry farming households. The result of the study revealed that co-operator poultry farmers are better off than their non-co-operator counterparts. According to the study, cooperative membership reduces multidimensional poverty among the co-operator and non-co-operator poultry farming households. Multipurpose cooperatives were found to be more effective and consumer cooperatives less effective in poverty reduction among the four types of cooperative societies in the study area.

Mr. Popoola’s study recommendations include: improvement of rural electrification and access to extension agents by poultry farmers; encouraging poultry farmers to join cooperatives, especially the multipurpose ones to aim at poverty reduction among them; revamping of producer cooperatives in order to improve its daunting efficiency; intensification of efforts towards increased access to good electricity, clean water, quality healthcare, asset acquisition, good housing, and improved sanitation.

In the question and answer session, Nathalie Magne was asked how salary and financial benefits compare between cooperatives and conventional knowledge-based firms. Ms. Magne noted that looking at average incomes in all firms, workers’ incomes in cooperatives in France tend to be higher than in conventional firms. This is because cooperatives tend to be slightly bigger and workers in those cooperatives tend to be more qualified. However, in equivalent size firms and with equivalent qualifications of workers, wages were lower in cooperatives. For unqualified workers, salaries in cooperatives tend to be a little higher and for very high qualified workers salaries tend to be lower.

In response to a question on the main challenges to involvement of youth in agricultural cooperatives David Popoola noted that the main challenge is related to limited incentives available to young people. In order to address this, cooperatives could put in place some incentives such as making capital available for young people with low interest rates. Most recently, the Nigerian government is implementing a policy related to investment fund loans for youth to start their businesses. The Government could encourage youth to organize into cooperatives or direct them to existing cooperatives.

In response to a question on women leadership and youth participation in cooperatives, Muthu Karthikeyan noted women’s leadership in the South of the country, found that women leaders are better than men as leaders in making decisions with regard to cooperatives.
Regarding youth, he noted that there are a growing number of cooperatives owned by youth in Ethiopia.