Italian Center for Documentation on Cooperation and Social Economy | Virtual museum - Latest developments

Virtual Museum
of cooperatives

Latest developments

Following the increasing financialization of the economy, the cooperative movement has revealed an increasing need for capital; indeed, the under-capitalization of cooperatives has been on of one of the inherent historical weaknesses of the movement. There are two ways in which this weakness can be counteracted: indirect access to capital markets by way of joint stock companies under cooperative control – which are increasingly being acquired and created - and by way of changes in legislation so as to facilitate access to more capital by the cooperatives.
 
On 31 December 1992, Law 59 was issued, introducing some important changes concerning the financial aspects of the cooperative firm. The most important changes concerned financing methods for cooperatives introduced to provide a solution to the long-standing problem of under- capitalization. The law provided for a new category of soci sovventori (cooperative shareholder members with multiple votes) whose financial resources could be used for funding technological development and restructuring, and to increase business potential. Furthermore, the law stipulated that 3% of annual profits should go back into a solidarity fund for the promotion and development of cooperatives. For cooperatives that have adhered to federations, this contribution goes into an especially-created fund.
 
The most recent legislation in the cooperative sector is that of 2002, which defines more strictly the mutuality nature of cooperatives, and has limited the earlier fiscal advantages. The effects of the legislation remain to be seen, but the thrust to reinvigorate the cooperative spirit is certainly welcome.
 
The cooperative movement throughout these years has allowed social groups and classes that would otherwise have been excluded to gain access to businesses, to generate income, employment and solidarity, three irrevocable aspects of economic and social progress. As long as the country’s youth continue to show the desire to have control over its own work activity, and society continues to uphold interest in an economic democracy in which there is freedom to choose one’s own work environment as well as the kind of business in which to work, the cooperative movement will maintain if not even increase its appeal.

 
Research:
Vera Negri Zamagni, Italy's cooperatives from marginality to success, XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki Finland, 21-25 August 2006. File
 
Antonio Fici, Financial partecipation by emploeeys in co-operatives in Italy, 2004, Confidence Projet

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