Sri Lanka

Key figures

Research overview

Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives worldwide. 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. Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using the same questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain an accurate picture of the national situation. 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 them tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for Sri Lanka. For more information, you can download the full report and the highlights here.


Cooperatives in Sri Lanka have a long and rich history going back to the British colonial period in the early 20th century. Initially started by the rural working class who set up their own credit societies, cooperatives have gradually branched out to other sectors under the guidance of the government. During the civil war years, cooperatives were identified by the United Nations (UN) as the only “stable” economic structure present in northern Sri Lanka. Cooperatives are now being seen in a new light and strengthened by the government to withstand competition in the current liberal market economy. 


ICA has five members from Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the research questionnaire was distributed to and completed by 1 ICA member organisation in the country. National data was provided by NCCSL. The data collected was for the reference year 2019. 


ICA members represent 16,000 cooperatives in the country, with 8.1 million members and 65,000 employees.

Cooperatives are present across diverse sectors in Sri Lanka including thrift and credit, fisheries, consumer/retail sector among others.

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 Sri Lanka.


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