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Dcoop, one of the most influential co-operatives in Andalucía, based in Antequera, Malaga province. SUR
Andalucía leads Spain's social enterprise economy with over 4,900 cooperatives
Economy

Andalucía leads Spain's social enterprise economy with over 4,900 cooperatives

This surge in growth has already led to the sector contributing 10% to the region's GDP with a turnover of 15.827 billion euros and providing more than 81,000 jobs.

José Luis Piedra

Seville

Monday, 1 April 2024, 23:28

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The progress made by non-profit set-ups (cooperatives, mutuals, associations, foundations and social enterprises) in Andalucía has made this region the national leader in this production sector, with a total of 4,931 cooperative enterprises that now account for nearly 10% of the region's GDP and 12.5% of employment.

The strength of such cooperatives is also matched by their leading role in terms of turnover and employment in Spain, exceeding national levels in these parameters by 20%. In addition, it is worth noting that the cooperative presence is strong across the region, with at least one social economy organisation operating in four out of every five Andalusian municipalities.

Cooperatives in Andalucía currently support a total of 81,876 jobs and their turnover amounts to 15.827 billion euros according to data provided by AndalucíaEScoop, the umbrella organisation for the Andalusian Agri-food Cooperatives and FAECTA, the two largest organisations in the cooperative world in this region.

In this region alone there are more than 375,000 families making a living from cooperatives, a sector that has become a major factor in the fight against depopulation of rural areas. This explains to a large extent why Andalucía suffers less from this phenomenon when compared to how seriously it affects other rural areas in other regions.

The diversity of this region's cooperatives, both in terms of size and sectors, makes this thriving sector as a whole even more powerful. Its development has led some cooperatives to demonstrate that there are no limits to their growth with some businesses becoming sector leaders for production - for instance, such as Covap, Dcoop or Coviran. That said, the bulk of the overall sector still consists of smaller cooperatives.

The success of this business model has led some of these cooperatives to become some of the largest companies in Andalucía. Some 26 regional cooperatives are among the 100 most important cooperatives in Spain and 21 of them are among the top 100 for exports.

They are present in all sectors of the Andalusian economy, from the giants of the agri-food industry and leaders in export and innovation to other projects linked to education, social services, crafts and law. Similarly, we must recognise the recent take-up by thousands of the region's youth, mostly engineers and university graduates, who are channelling their entrepreneurial calling via cooperatives.

The prominence of women in the sector is an important feature to note. The presence of women in the cooperative social mass is higher than in other sectors, reaching 49% in worker cooperatives, especially in educational activities and services, and 30% in agri-food cooperatives.

Cooperatives also stand out for their export capacity, innovation and resilience in the face of adversity. Proof of this was the role they played during the pandemic, adapting their businesses and sustaining employment up to ten points above the average, maintaining basic services such as food supply, care for dependent persons and education, among others.

As a final point, the spirit of the cooperative has always distinguished itself by creating jobs for vulnerable groups and those with difficulties in accessing the labour market.

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