The survival and growth of worker co-operatives: a comparison with small businesses

Thomas, Alan and Cornforth, Chris (1989). The survival and growth of worker co-operatives: a comparison with small businesses. International Small Business Journal, 8(1) pp. 34–50.



ALAN THOMAS AND CHRIS Cornforth are with the Co-operatives Research Unit at the Open University, England. There has been a good deal of theoretical debate and general speculation about the performance of worker co-operatives. However, there has been a shortage of good empirical work has been restricted to case studies or surveys of producer co-operatives formed during the early years of the century in Britain. This paper helps to rectify that situation. It draws upon a complete database of all worker co-operatives formed between 1946-86 in the UK to detail their spread and distribution, and goes on to analyse the survival rates of worker co-operatives, and briefly, their growth rates. Contrary to much of the speculation it concludes that co-operatives have similar survival rates and patterns of growth to those of other small businesses. However, co-operatives tend to be concentrated in certain sub-sectors and their survival rates also vary between sectors, tending to confirm those writers who suggest that despite good performance once set up, co-operatives will tend to have a limited role in the economy.

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