Self-Help and Mutual Aid

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* Report: Pat Conaty, Rosemary Foggitt, Steve Bendle and Rumbi Tarusenga (2008) Self-Help and Mutual Aid – a Mutual for the self-employed for underpinning local economies across Britain, new economics foundation.


Pat Conaty:

"Research by new economics foundation (nef) in 2008 indicated that the self-employed alone, account for one in four jobs in the UK economy. Since the banking collapse self-employment has soared to its highest level since the Great Depression. 83% of 4.1 million sole traders nationally earn less than the average income. The nef research found in England and Wales that the self-employed were below the radar screen of Government and local authorities but also difficult for the trade union sector to assist.

The nef research developed a model for a mutual for the self-employed. Innovation has followed. For example, London Rebuilding Society has developed a Mutual Aid Fund for African immigrant communities. The research also inspired the 2012 launch in Berlin of Kredit Union, a mutual finance system for sole traders.

Set up in 1995, Freelancers Union in New York is organising these workers in similar ways to Kredit Union and has built up a membership of over 230,000. In other countries of Europe, trade unions for the self-employed have been developed in the Netherlands, in Denmark and in Germany. These are growing in scale. In the UK, there are craft unions for the self-employed in a number of trades ranging from journalists to bakers and from actors to musicians. There are also co-operatives for the self-employed for taxi drivers, farmers, fishers and diverse artisans.

WIEGO with links to the international Fairtrade movement has been working on successful mutual models that integrate co-operative, mutual finance and trade union solutions. SEWA Bank in India has been a pioneer of these democratic and integrated mutuality solutions for women sole traders in the precariat.

Since 1990 an increasing number of European countries have supported the development of mutual guarantee societies to assist sole traders to access lower cost finance through mutual insurance. Mutual credit like WiR in Switzerland and Ithaca hours in New York are successful forms of co-operative money. This service has not yet been introduced to the UK however but some recent research has been conducted by Co-operatives UK and a report produced on solutions that can be provided for self-employed people through co-operative consortia. The new economics research in 2008 pointed to the scope to link up these trade union, co-operative and mutual solutions to meet the needs of UK’s precariat workers."


From Pat Conaty, draft proposal, 'Mutuality Solutions for the ‘Precariat’, 2013