The cooperative firms represent, as well known, a peculiar model which is very different from that represented by capitalistic firms. This model is based on a set of values, universally recognized by the International Cooperative Alliance, such as the voluntary and open membership, the democratic member control, the member economic participation, the autonomy and independence, the concern for community. These values are widespread all around the world and attribute to these specific firms a "cooperative advantage". This research intends to assess empirically this "advantage" by putting in evidence the better performance of Italian cooperative firms during this phase of severe recession and their better contribution to maintain the employment levels in comparison with the capitalistic firms. Methods and Results The paper is divided into two parts. In the first part, some peculiarities of total and social cooperative firms are considered with particular reference to the role of their members who are, in the meantime, either workers or entrepreneurs, heavily involved in firms’ strategies. In the second part of the research, the employment performance of cooperatives is analyzed (at regional level) on the basis of data derived by the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Census, 2001 and 2011) and on some main results by some qualitative surveys. Conclusions The paper has revealed the better resilience to crisis of cooperative firms and their better contribution to the maintenance of employment; moreover some considerations on the future of the cooperative model and on some desirable measures of industrial policy aimed at encouraging young people to work inside this specific typology of firms are developed.
Keywords: Capitalist enterprises, cooperative enterprises, social cooperatives, italian regions, employment, economic crisis
Jel Code: J21, L21, L31, P12, P13