Blog: All Sectors

Co-ops Support Women’s Economic Empowerment in Indonesia

August 2, 2017

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) released new research on the impact of women’s cooperatives in Jakarta, Indonesia. The research study (available in English and Indonesian) provides new evidence about the ways in which cooperatives can support women’s economic empowerment. An op-ed based on this research is published in the Jakarta Post.

Indonesia has more than 150,000 active cooperatives, with more than 6,000 in Jakarta alone. Cooperatives can expand women’s access to small-scale finance, markets, and training, and can provide connections to social services. Formal institutions in the government and private sector can build on the cooperatives’ local networks to enable better outreach and deliver services.

In Indonesia, women’s labor force participation lags behind that of men by more than 30 percentage points. Most women who participate in the economy do so informally. As elsewhere in the world, many home-based workers lack legal and social protection, and face challenges such as limited access to capital, intensive competition in low-value sectors, and difficulties balancing paid work with household work and child care.

Cooperatives in Indonesia are extensively regulated and supported by the government, particularly the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises. Development partners like the International Labor Organization and civil society organizations are also active in this space. We assessed how cooperative membership in Jakarta supports women’s economic empowerment.

Key Findings

  • Cooperatives connect members with formal institutions like governments and civil society organizations that deliver services. This can help increase the skills and income security, as well as health, of members who work informally at home.
  • Cooperatives provide small-scale finance to members, offering an alternative to formal banks and informal money lenders/loan sharks.
  • Cooperatives connect members to markets primarily at the local level, though some cooperatives have secured national and international contracts.


By: Andrew Walker (Bank of America Fellow on Women and the Economy, GIWPS)
This study was supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.