By Co-ops UK Secretary-General Ed Mayo
The number of people who own shares on a global basis pales in comparison to those who are members of a co-operative.
Co-ops UK Secretary-General Ed Mayo penned a comparative report in January which established that there are three times as many co-operative members as there are shareholders.
“Despite the focus of attention on stock markets, however, it is co-operative enterprise that touches the lives of more people as owners worldwide,” Mayo wrote as his conclusion.
This apparent imbalance in attention from the media, government and bureaucracy in favour of stockmarket-listed companies over co-operatives is one of the key anomalies seeking to be righted during the UN International Year of Co-operatives. Perhaps this anomaly can partly be explained when one considers that the value of shares globally – according to Mayo’s report – is about $US36.6 trillion. It is not a direct comparison, but according to the ICA’s latest Global300 report the total revenues from the largest 300 co-operatives are about $US1.6 trillion.
Mayo drew his findings from data on shareholder ownership compiled in the UK and US covering the 70 companies in which there are publicly-traded stockmarkets and the data on co-operatives from the ICA.
“Although the economic conditions look challenging for markets in Europe, where co-operatives have a traditional strength, and Africa, where farmer co-operatives and credit unions play a key role in terms of economic development, co-operatives do have a track record of resilience in tough times,” the report says. And in the fast-growth BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, there are four times as many co-operative members as shareholders.
Some other interesting facts from the report:
There are three countries with over half the population in co-operative membership and are all in Europe. These are Ireland (70%), Finland (60%) and Austria (59%).
The countries with the most significant numbers of people in co-operative membership, however, are predominantly in Asia and the Americas. These are India (242 million), China (160 million) and the USA (120 million).
One in five people across the Americas, North and South, are a member of a co-operative.
Only 7% of the world population lives in countries that do not have stock markets.
In Africa, one in thirteen people is a member of a co-operative and there are six times as many co-operative owners as there are shareholders.
The country with the widest shareholder ownership across its population is Japan (31%). In Japan, this has doubled over the past two decades, whereas in the UK, individual share ownership, compared to other institutional investors, has halved.One in five people across the Americas, North and South, are a member of a co-operative.