Forum: Support formation of worker cooperatives

A new jobs and skills training initiative called Skills Ignition SG has been launched by Google in conjunction with government agencies Economic Development Board, Infocomm Media Development Authority and SkillsFuture Singapore, targeted at entry-level and mid-career workers (Google launches jobs and training initiative with govt agencies, July 21).

This is on top of the SGUnited Traineeships Programme that aims to support up to 21,000 recent and new graduates and improve their employability, and the SGUnited Skills Programme training initiative that aims to help trainees acquire industry-relevant skills.

The common thread among all these programmes is that there is no guarantee of employment after the end of the programme from participating companies.

There needs to be something more concrete. The Government should consider supporting the setting up of worker cooperatives, an important option when it comes to creating jobs.

Globally, such cooperatives have shown the ability to maintain employment during an economic downturn. Since workers are directly involved in the decision-making, cooperatives are less likely to cut jobs. They offer an economic model based on mutual support, fairness and sustainability.

In countries such as Spain, Britain, Denmark, Italy, Japan and Canada, networks of worker cooperatives were started and sustained in response to economic downturns. In Spain, for example, about 20,000 cooperatives were recorded in 2015, employing around 300,000 persons, according to a publication by the European Network of Cities and Regions for the Social Economy.

Recent measures to contain Covid-19 have been devastating for many companies. An increasing number of businesses will have to close down, with the prospect of significant unemployment.

The Government can improve the environment for the transfer of ownership of such businesses to employees and the transformation of the businesses into worker cooperatives.

Liu Fook Thim

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