The “Terzo Rapporto Euricse sulla Cooperazione” (Third report on cooperatives) recently published by EURICSE indicates how the social cooperatives’ trend during the crisis is “an important indicator of their sustainability. Many people have argued in these years that the development of social cooperatives was based not on the intrinsic characteristics of this business model – that combines in an innovative way of entrepreneurship and social purpose – but from outsourcing policies undertaken by the government in the production of social and educational services.
If this was the case, this development should have downsized, especially following the public budget cuts”. Contrary to expectations, the evidence contained in the Report shows not only that this downturn did not occur, but that just the opposite happened. Beyond the impressive development of social cooperatives, the employment weight of cooperatives is high in the entire service sector: in the transport sector they represent 19.7%, in “other services” the 11.6%.

Also, the service sector is in which cooperatives show higher strength in terms of indirect impact on other companies (e.g. demand of goods and service from cooperatives to non-cooperative companies: service cooperatives “activate” 9.5% of the total GDP within the sector.) In the field of business transfers to employees, 252 workers buyouts took place in Italy since the 80s (more than 80 % in the industry, service and construction sectors), the majority of them are SME. Their survival rate was high and many of them have managed not only to survive, but also to enhance their activity and increase jobs. Among cooperatives born at the turn of the 80s and 90s, 36% are still active. They were supported by adequate policies (in particular the Marcora Law), and specific instruments created by cooperative federations.

Figures and performance of cooperatives in Italy At the end of 2013, there were 70,000 cooperatives creating 1,257,213 jobs, namely 9.5% of total jobs in private non-farming companies. Furthermore, 76.8% of these jobs were stable jobs (open ended contracts) and 51% of these cooperatives’ employees were women. Those enterprises showed a strong resilience in time of crisis. From 2008 to 2013, employment in cooperatives has grown by 6.8% against 5% in non-cooperative private companies.

This growth rate was particularly high for open ended contract and female jobs. The good performance of cooperatives is not the result of presumed fiscal vantages towards cooperatives in Italy: on the contrary, fiscal pressure is significantly higher for cooperatives compared to other companies (in 2013, 7.7% for the first compared with 6.8% for the latter), mainly due to the greater pressure of social charges and taxes on labor income. Between 2007 and 2013, the fiscal contribution of cooperatives has grown while that of limited companies has decreased. The report is available here