Dimension of the International Co-op Movement

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  This document has been made available in electronic format by
         the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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              FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN : 
         ACTION FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE 
            BEIJING, CHINA, 4 - 15 SEPTEMBER 1995

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        THE CONTRIBUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE BUSINESS ENTERPRISE
            AND THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
           TO ACHIEVEMENT OF THE STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES OF
                  THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION *
       *****************************************************

                      New York, March 1995


PREPARED JOINTLY, PURSUANT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 49/155,
       BY THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE AND 
    THE UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT FOR POLICY COORDINATION 
                AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

     * For information purposes only. Not an official document 
       of the United Nations and not officially edited.


DIMENSIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
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A total of 740,000,000 women and men are currently members of co-
operative business enterprises which are associated together in
national federations and unions which are themselves members of
the International Co-operative Alliance. Not all co-operatives,
and not all national federations, are yet members of the
Alliance, and it is estimated that the total number of co-
operators - that is, members, and hence owners, of co-operative
enterprises - is about 800,000,000 world-wide. To this total may
be added the numbers of persons employed by co-operative
enterprises but not members of them : an estimated further
100,000,000. Membership of, or employment in, a co-operative
enterprise has economic and social significance also for the
immediate families of members and employees. If the average size
of families or households affected to some significant extent by
association with a co-operative - whether as a producer or as a
consumer, client or user - is taken to be four persons, then the
global total reaches 3,600,000,000 - more than half or the
world's population.

In many countries membership in all co-operatives is equivalent
to a high proportion of the adult population. Although censuses
do not yet record the numbers of persons who are members of at
least one co-operative enterprise, it is possible, by comparing
the known numbers of members of co-operatives (some of whom are
likely to be members of two or more such enterprises) with the
total population of economically active age, to arrive at an
index of the dimension of co-operative membership within national
populations. this index, limited to individual membership in
those co-operative enterprises themselves members of the
International Co-operative Alliance, was in 1994 as high as
between 70 and 79 per cent in Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Finland,
Israel and Uruguay. In France it was 61 per cent, in Belgium and
Norway between 50 and 59 per cent. It was between 40 and 49 per
cent in Denmark, India, Japan, Malaysia, Portugal, Sri Lanka and
the United States of America.

In no country does the system of national accounts yet
distinguish between co-operatively organized and other types of
private business enterprise: hence it is not easy to calculate
the contribution of co-operative enterprises to GNP. However, in
Sweden it was calculated that this share in 1993 reached 8 per
cent (with an annual turnover of 20 billion European currency
units - ECU). In the Basque region of spain in 1989 it was
estimated that co-operatives accounted for 15 per cent of
regional GNP. On the basis of what is known of co-operative
shares in certain sectors it may be presumed that in most
developed market economies the co-operative share of GNP is
between 5 and 20 per cent. In those developing market economies
where production and export of agricultural commodities is of
major significance, the co-operative contribution to GNP is
likely to be between 10 and 20 per cent, given that co-operatives
are responsible for most activity in these sectors. In the Cote
d'Ivoire the share has been calculated as 15 per cent.

Co-operative business enterprises are known to operate in almost
every area of economic and social activity : they are known to
be of major significance in almost every sector and sub-sector
in at least some country. They are a significant, and
functionally essential, component of advanced market economies.
This economic status, when combined with the social and
environmental conscience which characterises co-operative
business enterprises and the international co-operative movement,
is of major significance for women's advancement.

In almost all market economies co-operatives owned by independent
agricultural, forestry and fisheries enterprises account for
major shares of the purchasing and supply of inputs and the
marketing of outputs, and are an essential organizational
component or rural economies. For example,in 1993, in the
countries of the European Union, together with Austria, Finland
and Sweden, 14 million agricultural enterprises were
member-owners of co-operatives which supplied 55 per cent of
their inputs and marketed 60 per cent of their outputs : these
co-operatives employed 800,000 persons and had an annual turnover
of 205 ECU. In Sweden 99 per cent of dairy production is marketed
by co-operatives owned by independent farmers. In Norway 75 per
cent of forest products are processed and marketed by co-
operatives. In Italy 60 per cent of wine is produced by marketing
co-operative, these co-operative enterprises handle 95 per cent
of rice and 90 per cent of fisheries output. In the United States
of America in 1992 agricultural supply and marketing co-
operatives served four million members who were independent farm
enterprises. Fourteen of these co-operatives were included in the
"Fortune 500" list of the largest corporations. In 1991 they
supplied 45 per cent of American farmers' input of fertilizers,
43 per cent of their input of petroleum and 28 per cent of their
input of chemicals. Their percentage share of marketed outputs
was 81 per cent for milk, 38 per cent for cotton and cotton seed,
and also for grains and oilseeds, and 18 per cent for fruits and
vegetables. In Canada in 1992, 8 of the top 10 agricultural firms
were co-operative enterprises. Those in the prairie provinces
marketed 75 per cent of western Canadian grain and oilseed.

In many developing market economies rural supply and marketing
co-operatives pay an equally significant role. This is so in
respect to production for the internal market, as well as for
export. For example, in India the AMUL dairying co-operative
system, composed of 6 million independent farm producers - most
of whom are women - organized in 57,000 co-operatives and in
State level and national level federations, supplies the greater
part of milk consumed nationally. In Tunisia 60 per cent of milk
production was marketed by co-operatives in 1993, and in Bolivia
60 per cent of chickens and 30 per cent of eggs. The proportions
of exported agricultural commodities handled by marketing co-
operatives owned by independent producers reached in Kenya 100
per cent for cotton, 87 per cent for pyrethrum and 52 per cent
for coffee; in Brazil these proportions were 50 per cent for
wheat and 40 per cent for cotton.

Although to a less predominant extent than in the primary sector,
co-operative enterprises were significant also in manufacturing,
not least because of the vertical expansion of agricultural
supply co-operatives into the manufacture of inputs, and the
converse expansion of marketing co-operatives into food
processing. In India, for example, co-operative enterprises
accounted for 25 per cent of fertilizer production, and 65 per
cent of processed sugar. In addition, in many countries, very
large numbers of persons were self-employed in worker-owned
manufacturing co-operatives, ranging from small-scale and
labour-intensive handicraft enterprises to highly capitalized
large-scale heavy industry. In 1993 an estimated 100,000,000
persons were self-employed in such enterprises world-wide.

In many countries significant proportions of services are
provided by co-operative enterprises which are owned by the
individuals, households or enterprises which are the users or
customers. For example, in the United States rural electricity
co-operatives supply 25 million persons : in Costa Rica about 10
per cent of electricity consumed is supplied by co-operatives.
Housing co-operatives provide significant shares of shelter in
many countries.

High proportions of the population, particularly in advanced
market economies, are members of retail consumer co-operatives:
in December 1991 in the European Community, the Nordic countries,
Switzerland and the then Czechoslovakia, such co-operatives had
21,6 million household members, 393,000 employees, and a turnover
during 1991 of 45,639,000,000 ECU. They accounted for over half
of retail food sales in Switzerland, 34 per cent in Denmark and
30 per cent in Finland.

Savings and credit co-operatives (often known as "credit unions")
are significant in the financial sectors of many advanced and
developing market economies. The proportions of the working age
population who were members at the end of 1993 was between 30 and
49 per cent in five countries (including 44 per cent in Ireland
and 36 per cent in the United States), and between 10 and 29 per
cent in another 16 countries. At the end of 1993 members of
credit unions which were associated in national or regional
federations which were themselves members of the World Council
of Credit Unions (WOCCU) totalled 93,216,000. Their 55,186 credit
unions had savings amounting to US$ 383 billion, loans of 248
billion, reserves of 17 billion and assets of 425 billion. This
type of co-operative had the most dynamic growth of any : between
1972, when global statistics were first collected by WOCCU, and
1993, both savings and loans had grown by an annual rate of 15
per cent, and assets by 16 per cent.

These were not the only types of co-operative in the financial
sector. In many countries co-operative banks were dominant in the
economy : for example the largest European Bank, the French
Credit Agricole, Rabobank, the third largest bank in the
Netherlands, and the Raiffeisen movement in Germany, Austria and
Switzerland, are all co-operatives: that is they are owned by
their members, who are account holders.

Co-operative insurance enterprises are of major significance in
many advanced market economies. For example, in Sweden about one
half of the adult population has at least one policy with the
Folksam group. In Japan the farmers' insurance co-operative is
the largest agricultural insurance enterprise in the world.

Increasingly, co-operative enterprises are being established and
expand in such sectors as health, education, child-care, social
services, and community development, all areas of direct and
major significance to women.