Individual members of national societies belonging to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 2002
Asia & Oceania
World total 724,904,821
The best hard evidence we have comes from the membership of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), based in Geneva, which in 2002 counted 725 million people involved in co-operatives worldwide – as consumers, workers or residents.1
However, the figure is probably an under-estimate. For historical and other reasons, not all co-op members in every country belong to the ICA or feature in their statistics. Not included are:
• Iran: which has at least 50,000 co-ops, with 25% of the population in membership.2
• Aotearoa: The New Zealand Co-operatives Association has 40 member organizations.
• Mexico: After the revolution that began in 1910, Mexico’s many co-ops were linked directly to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
• Indonesia: Has some 100,000 co-ops with 26 million members.
• Egypt: The Government estimates there are more than 10 million co-op members.2
Thousands of co-ops in China, Russia and the former Soviet Union, excluded during the Cold War, now belong to the ICA. Debate continues as to how ‘autonomous’ they are.
What do they do?
Colombia: The health co-op Saludcoop is the country’s second-largest employer and provides services to 25% of the population.3
India: There are some 90,000 agricultural supply and marketing co-ops. The Anand dairy comprises some 57,000 co-operatives with about 6 million members.
Bolivia: Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito ‘Jesús Nazareno’ (CJN) handles 25% of all savings.
Brazil: Collective healthcare groups employ 60,000 doctors (about a third of the national total) with over 8 million patients.
South Korea: Has the largest credit-union movement in any developing country, with assets in excess of $7 billion. The Federation of Fisheries Co-operatives has a 71% market share.
Japan: Supply and marketing co-ops handle over 90% of rice and fisheries production.
Kuwait: The Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies handles 80% of all retail trade.
Cyprus: The co-op movement holds a 30% share of banking services and 35% of the marketing of agricultural produce.
Israel: Although they have been in decline, the kibbutzim co-ops played a major part in the genesis of the country.
US: The 100 largest co-ops employ 750,000 people with sales that surpassed $100 billion in 1996. Co-op housing units provide for 3 million people – Co-op City in the Bronx, New York, has 50,000 residents and the largest mortgage in the world. Consumer-owned electricity groups supply 25 million people, mostly in rural areas, and operate more than half the country’s distribution lines. Co-op wholesalers provide more than $100 million worth of groceries and household products every day.
Europe: Agricultural supply and marketing co-ops have some 14 million members and a 55% share of total farm inputs. The Co-op is the largest agricultural landowner in Britain. The Mondragón Corporación Co-operativa (MCC) is the 7th largest industrial group in Spain, employing more than 66,000 people.4 In Italy there are more than 250,000 members of worker-owned co-ops alone, many of them in cutting-edge ‘flexible manufacturing networks’.5
Canada: Quebec’s Mouvement des caisses Desjardins is one of the largest financial institutions in the province. Some 40% of Canadians are members of at least one co-op.
How have things changed?
Between 1975 and 2002 co-op membership in the ICA grew faster than the world’s population – even discounting the incorporation of the former Soviet Union and China. Membership trebled in Africa and the Americas. The one region where it fell was Europe.
Co-op membership trends 1975-20026
Members of co-ops (millions) Europe
Asia & Oceania
*excluding China and Former Soviet Union
- International Labour Organization, http://www.ilo.org Provisional Record, 19th Session, Geneva 2002.
- International Labour Organization, http://www.ilo.org Report by the Secretary-General, A/49/213 1 July 1994.
- Tim Huet, ‘Can Co-ops Go Global?’ http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/1997/1197huet.html
- http://www.ica.coop and New Internationalist No 48, February 1977.
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