The contribution of co-operatives to the world of work is becoming an increasingly researched topic among academics from across the world. In November the International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the International Co-operative Alliance’s Research Committee, will be co-hosting a research conference in Antalya, Turkey.
The event will give co-operative and labour researchers the opportunity to look at issues related to the role played by co-operative enterprises in addressing unemployment, unfairness and inequality in the labour market.
This month the ILO is also organising a conference in Jordan, Amman, where experts and academics will examine the level of formal organisation of migrant domestic workers in Arab States.
The ILO has produced a comprehensive study, which will be discussed at the conference, entitled “Cooperating out of isolation: the case of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait”.
The study reveals that many “live-in” domestic workers still face isolation and limited freedom of movement. This hinders their ability to organise collectively. While informal networks and community-based initiatives exist, their voices remain largely unheard.
ILO’s study aims to map the current legislative policy frameworks, institutional structures and membership-based initiatives that can provide domestic workers with the space to economically organise in the Middle East.
There are currently two million domestic workers in the Middle East. Co-operatives can help them secure decent working conditions and fair levels or remuneration as well as access services, training and better job opportunities.
Legislation can prove to be a challenge in certain states. In Jordan no law prohibits foreign membership in a co-operative. However, co-ops can only be set up if all the members are Jordanian. Similarly, a minimum of 50 Kuwaiti nationals above the age of 21 are required to set up a co-operative. No restrictions on nationality members apply in Lebanon, provided participation is in compliance with work permit requirements and sponsor approval.
ILO’s report sets out a number of recommendations to create a more favourable environment for co-operatives as actors in empowering migrant workers in the region. One of the suggestions made by the ILO is the full inclusion of domestic workers and migrant domestic workers in labour laws. The organisation also recommends ratifying the Domestic Workers Convention of 2011 and the Freedom of Association and protection of the Right to Organize Convention of 1948.
Photo: domestic workers in New York, members of the co-operative "We Can Do It" (c) We Can Do It