Costa Rica

Key figures

Number of cooperatives per sector
Employees and members per sector

Research overview

Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives around the world.

This is achieved through a process jointly conducted by the ICA and its four regional offices – Cooperatives of the Americas, Cooperatives Europe, ICA Africa, and ICA Asia-Pacific – using a common methodology, designed with the support of external experts from the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).

Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using a common questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain a picture of the national situation. As a result, the data above is collected following two strategies: 1) a survey targeting ICA cooperative members 2) collecting national statistics already available in the country. The numbers above provide aggregated data from ICA members on the number of cooperatives, as well as the number of cooperative employees and memberships in the country. More methodological information is available in the full report. In Costa Rica, the data is collected for the reference year 2017.

Mapping out cooperatives in each country provides a more precise picture of the cooperative context at national and regional levels, enhances the movement's visibility, networking, partnerships opportunities, as well as advocacy, and empowers cooperators by providing tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for Costa Rica. For more information and the full research results, you can download the report by clicking on the links above.



According to the document drafted by the Costa Rican researcher Johnny Mora Alfaro, in 1907 the Cooperative Workers' Society was founded, with artisan members based in San José; which were organized to facilitate the commercialization of basic goods for general consumption and to try to eliminate the role of intermediaries who hoarded profits. Despite the creation of this labor movement, a decade prevailed until the next creation of a cooperative at the national level, in this case, the Sociedad Cooperativa de Consumos, Ahorro y Socorros Mutuos, which was constituted by workers from the Ministry of Development and Public Works workshop in 1917; followed by the creation of nine other cooperatives between 1917 and 1923.

Based on these movements, the Costa Rican State identified cooperative initiatives as a tool for economic and social development, for which it promoted the creation of the Cooperative and Industrial Society and the Constructor Cooperative Society to meet the needs of sensitive areas such as construction and house repairs, construction of bridges, buildings and other public works developed by the State.


Costa Rica counts 10 ICA member organisations:

- Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal (BPDC), is a full member in the banking sector.

- Centro de Estudios y Capacitación Cooperativa R.L. (CENECOOP), is a full member in the education sector.

- Consejo Nacional de Cooperativas (CONACOOP), is a full member and is the APEX organisation in Costa Rica.

- Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Ande N° 1 R.L. (Coope Ande N°1 R.L.), is a full member in the finance sector.

- Sociedad de Seguros de Vida del Magisterio Nacional (SSVMN), is a full member in the insurance sector.

Coperativa de Ahorro y Crédito de los Servidores Públicos, R.L, (COOPESERVIDORES, R.L - CS), is a full member in the finance sector.

Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito de Servidores Judiciales R.L. (COOPEJUDICIAL R.L.), is a full member in the finance sector.

Instituto Nacional de Fomento Cooperativo (INFOCOOP),  is an associate member dedicated to cooperative promotion.

In Costa Rica the research questionnaire was distributed to and completed by 3 ICA member organisations. The data collected was for the reference year 2017.

Legal framework

Legal framework
Legal framework
Legal framework


The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for Costa Rica.



The first Costa Rican cooperative regulation dates back to 1943, when the first Labour Code was enacted, a regulation was included (Art. 262) which declared cooperatives "as one of the most effective means of contributing to the sustainability and development of popular culture and Costa Rican democracy". This legal definition would later be replicated in the Political Constitution enacted in 1949 with the following regulation: "Political Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica Article 64.-. The State will encourage the creation of cooperatives as a means to improve the living conditions of workers...".

These first cooperative precepts in Costa Rica would be part of the Labour Code until 1968 when, by Law 4179, the "Law on Cooperative Associations and creation of the National Cooperative Development Institute -INFOCOOP-" was enacted. Through this law, the Costa Rican cooperative movement would autonomously become established and thus modify the legal nature of these organizations, going from being cooperative societies, to being from then on, voluntary associations of people of an indefinite duration and limited liability. 


Cooperative friendliness

In Costa Rica there are no specific legal barriers or obstacles for the development of cooperatives, on the contrary, public policies and legislation in general are inclined toward the development of these associations. However, the Cooperative Associations Law requires comprehensive reform in order to adjust it to the reality currently brought forward by the cooperative movement. The current law was encouraged by the development of cooperatives, especially agricultural ones, with emphasis in coffee activity and the production for the consumption of basic grains. The current reality shows a movement that without abandoning agriculture, is inserting itself into other sectors of the economy, which requires a regulatory update.


Key recommendations for improvement

It is important to ensure that in the cooperative legislation and in the rest of the positive order of the country, the Cooperative Act is recognized, with its fundamental characteristics and that the actualization of the Law on Cooperative Associations should be derived from it.
New regulation that allows novel schemes is required for the capitalization of organizations, and it is necessary to regulate the procedures within cooperatives to modernize and facilitate the summons and execution of assemblies and meetings of administrative entities. Special regulation should be established for cooperatives that manage or distribute public services such as electricity, infocommunication services, health services, education services, etc.  It is also important to standardize in a particular way the existence of housing and consumer cooperatives, which have seen a reduction in the country.



In addition to the input from the responses of ICA member entities, the expert has consulted with well-known cooperative leaders and base associates, so the report drafted has a particular adherence with the latest views on cooperative legislation in Costa Rica.
Like in several Latin American countries, there has been discussion in Costa Rica about the relevance of taxing cooperatives, the issue should not be considered as resolved, legislators from new political generations do not have the same vision about the cooperative movement as their predecessors.




The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA. 

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