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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Cooperatives meeting informal economy workers’ child care needs

Around the world women do more care and domestic work alongside their paid and unpaid work than men (UN Women, 2015). Women’s care responsibilities are intensified when they have young children, elderly relatives, or people living with disabilities in their households. Research from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) highlights how without access to maternity entitlements and quality child care services, women workers in the informal economy take up more insecure work compromising their income security and their children’s wellbeing in order to work and provide care (Alfers, 2016). This in part explains the persistent gender inequalities in the labour market (ILO and WIEGO, 2012). In addition, paid care work, such as child care, elder care and domestic work is predominately done by women for low wages due to gender norms that devalue care and see it as women’s responsibilities, further entrenching gender segmentation within labour markets. 

Cooperatives set up and run by workers in the informal economy are among the solutions in meeting women workers’ care needs, while also helping protect the labour rights of care workers in the informal economy. They can be part of strategies and public policies to redistribute care work, so it does not rest disproportionately on women and girls’ shoulders. Findings from ILO’s global mapping of care provision through cooperatives show that communities, unions and groups of workers use the cooperative model for care provision or cooperatives are themselves establishing care services for their members (ILO, 2016). Cooperatives can also be a space to raise awareness about care needs and exercise collective voice to negotiate with government at different levels for public provision of care services. The second ILO report on care provision through cooperatives based on literature review and case studies shows the diverse opportunities cooperatives can provide in care provision (ILO, 2017).

Read the full report from ILO and WIEGO


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