Analysis of the impact of cooperative and social enterprises on work quality

Research Area: Measurement and Impact
Scientific coordinator: Sara Depedri

Project status: on-going

Cooperative and social enterprises have often been accused of offering jobs that are of contractual low quality because they are unstable and underpaid. With the aim of checking the truthfulness of these generic assertions, Euricse has contributed in the past to the production of an extensive study on social cooperative workers (known as ICSI2007 and subject to empirical surveying in the research project “Towards an economic theory of cooperative and social enterprises”).

With revised objectives, the topic of work quality is now the subject of a specific research project which explores quality not just in relation to contractual characteristics but also, most importantly, to the well-being of workers, in terms of satisfaction, motivation, fairness of treatment received, the existing psychological contract, work-life balance and control of work-related stress.


The objective of the research is to evaluate the quality of work in cooperative and social enterprises by looking at indicators that can reflect the variety of effects work can have on a person’s well-being: stability, economic impact, psychological well-being, commitment, a good work-life balance, etc. From a scientific perspective, the specific objective is to find summary indicators of work quality by drawing on internationally validated constructs, present in the psychological and economic literature, and collecting representative data from the various cooperative forms, with the aim of carrying out a comparative analysis. From the perspective of practical consequences, the aim of the research is to collaborate with cooperative and social enterprises at a national level to provide them with tools to properly and comprehensively monitor the happiness and unhappiness of their workers and to suggest management improvements for possible weaknesses that might be detected in individual organizations.

Main results

The first results of the research involved a general scientific consideration of work and work quality in cooperative enterprises. The empirical developments have now seen the active collaboration in recent months of a number of worker cooperatives and cooperative banks, with data collected on around 900 workers. This has shown excellent levels of satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, perceived fairness and employee loyalty in these organizational forms.

The achieved results, presented in the reports on individual cooperatives that participated in the study, have also allowed the cooperatives to meet the regulatory requirements for monitoring stress and to consider the strengths and weaknesses of their human resource management policies. For example, they have highlighted how the activity sector and the policies for promoting active participation by the workers are fundamental elements for a better perception of work quality and well-being. They have also shown that at the same time, it is important for cooperatives to ensure their workers feel involved in an organization whose history and objectives are different from an ordinary business.



Depedri, S., Ma quale stress? Rapporto sulla qualità del lavoro e sullo stress lavoro-correlato percepito dai dipendenti – research report produced for the cooperatives participating in the research.

Tortia. E.,C., Navarra, C.,  (2013), “Employer Moral Hazard, Wage Rigidity, and Worker Cooperatives: A Theoretical Appraisal” in Journal of economics issues, vol.48 (3), pp.707-726, impact factor 0.32.

Tortia, E.,C., Albanese, M.,  Navarra, C., (2014), “Employer moral hazard and wage rigidity. The case of worker owned and investor owned firms”, in International review of  Law  and Economics, Impact factor 0.476.



The concept of “impact” and particularly of “social impact” is assuming increasing relevance at both a scientific level and among policy-makers. Interest is growing particularly in the development of a system of evaluation aimed at identifying the social effects in general and in particular the impact on work quality and the supply of welfare services by social enterprises, and more generally cooperatives.

The research wants to make an original contribution to this debate and has the objective both of developing specific methodological proposals for impact evaluation for cooperatives and social enterprises, and concretely measuring certain types of impact of particular significance.

The other projects that fall within this line of research are:

Analysis of the impact of social cooperatives and enterprises on work integration;

Analysis of the role played by social enterprise in modern welfare systems in a comparative perspective.


Università di Trento
singole BCC, cooperative sociali e cooperative di lavoro

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