"People's Factories": Worker Co-operatives in South Africa - CLEO Skip to main content


The aim of this article is to investigate the recent emergence of worker cooperatives or “people’s factories” in South Africa. The development of South African worker co-ops is situated in terms of key aspects of the restructuring of the economy and society during the 1980s. New production forms such as producer cooperatives are linked to recession and worsening unemployment, state attempts to reverse economic decline and promote inward industrialization and to the strengthening of oppositional political forces, especially the trade union movement. The paper analyzes the role of worker cooperatives under late apartheid addressing issues of their formation, characteristics, location, and developmental prospects.