Co-ops Empower Immigrants

In the UK and across the world, co-operatives help provide a better life for immigrants and asylum seekers. While the British media continues to debate the positive and negative effects of immigration, little attention has been given to successful enterprises set up or led by immigrants – many of these being co-operatives.

A number of immigrants work in the informal economic sector, where jobs are irregular, poorly paid and employees are vulnerable to exploitation. By creating new job opportunities, co-operatives can help empower immigrants and refugees. Credit unions, many of them founded by immigrants, also provide financial services for low-income people from across the UK. In fact, British credit unions began in 1964 when a group of Caribbean families set up Horsney Co-operative, the UK’s first credit union, in North London.

The majority of immigrant worker co-operatives are start-up, with support from external or community non-profit organisations. Sometimes immigrant workers themselves are the ones organising the co-operative.

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