The ILO recognizes Cooperatives as a solution for better Working Conditions for Women in the care sector

23 May 2023 

The ILO wishes to promote care cooperatives as a way improve the working condition of women doing informal work in the care economy via a technical support program.  

In the years to come, cooperatives will be key actors keeping the care sector afloat. The ILO estimates that 2.3 billion people will need to be receiving care services by 2030. Most care workers are women, and most of them do this work unremunerated. The ILO recognizes the unique potential cooperatives must tackle the challenges ahead by: 

  • Providing access to improved wages, working conditions and benefits, and reducing employee turnover.  
  • Filling in a multipurpose role; as beneficiaries’ care needs are not singular, nor are the services cooperatives provide.  
  • Providing a multi-stakeholder structure in nature with the participation of workers, beneficiaries, and local governments. 
  • Providing care in various ways throughout the world, though there are regional differences in the types of care provided that are shaped by local contexts and care needs. 

Following these conclusions, the ILO will establish a program to promote a more enabling environment for care provision through cooperatives, strengthen the institutional infrastructure for the development of cooperatives, and establish and/or strengthen the existing care cooperatives by providing technical and policy assistance for donating countries. The programme will help countries via technical support to enhance their national support structures for cooperatives and other social and solidarity enterprises. 

CICOPA welcomes both the endorsement of the cooperative model in the care sector and the ILO’s program to promote care cooperatives. Cooperatives have a proven track record when it comes to providing quality care and improving working conditions for care workers, but still face challenges and untapped potential. This is highlighted in the report “Cooperatives Care” (2022) of CECOP, the European branch of CICOPA.  

Among many examples across the globe, Titi Services, the French worker cooperative shows how cooperative democratic governance improve the working conditions of women in the care sector. Answering the general dissatisfaction of workers in the sector, the cooperative has made a complete overhaul of their work organization with the development of “autonomous teams”. These autonomous teams are work groups that have been given the organizational latitude to create their own internal goals and work practices. Several strategies have been put in place to achieve this goal such as organizing bi-weekly meetings where the workers can share their needs and goals and co-create their own planning; enhancing the flexibility and freedom of workers to schedule their planning to increase their work-life balance; Dividing workers in teams depending on where they live to reduce commutes.  

Another example comes from the Americas. In 2021, a women-ran Canadian Home Care Workers’ Cooperative (HCWC) has been established to provide both care workers and the care recipient better treatment. HCWC has developed an excellent reputation in Ontario, with many referrals from hospitals and individual care recipients by developing personal plans and focusing on the care provider-recipient relationship. The cooperative strives to empower care givers to provide excellent services in excellent working conditions by focusing on independence and comfort. 

More information on the ILO programme here and on CECOP’s 2022 Cooperatives Care! Campaign 

Watch here CECOP’s interview of Titi Services.