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 Portugal, 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 Portugal. For more information and the full research results, you can download the highlights and the report by clicking on the links above.




Modern cooperative values were disseminated throughout Portugal from England by means of the 1848 Revolutions. Like the UK from where the Rochdale Pioneers emerged, early consumer coops in Portugal were rooted in neighbourhood networks and in the growing industrial belts of Lisbon and Porto. Portugal was the second country in Europe to legally recognise Cooperatives with the Basilar Law of 1867 which was introduced in the context of the liberal philanthropic movement of the time. In the years that followed, and especially during the First World War, the cooperative movement experienced increasing politicisation, in line with the trend of increased state intervention in the economic and social spheres.

Following growth of the Portuguese cooperative sector between the mid-1970s to the 1990s, more recent years saw a period in which significant cooperative failures took place, especially in more competitive markets such as the agri-food sector.The modern-day cooperative sector in Portugal continues to be dominated by agricultural cooperatives which in this report made up around a third of the total.  Other important sectors include banking, wholesale and retail trade and education.





Portugal counts 4 member organisations of the ICA and the regional offices (2 full ICA / Cooperatives Europe members, 1 full Cooperatives Europe member and 1 Cooperatives Europe associate member). 


Members of Cooperatives Europe and ICA:

-Cooperativa António Sérgio para a Economia Social, CASES is a full ICA member and the national apex organisation for Portuguese cooperatives, who they represent in public and abroad.

-Confederaçao Cooperativa Portuguesa, CONFECOOP is a full ICA member and the national confederation representing non-agricultural cooperatives in Portugal.


Members of Cooperatives Europe:

-Confederaçao Nacional de Cooperators Agricolas e do Crédito Agricola de Portugal, CCRL CONFAGRI is a full member and national confederation of Portuguese agricultural and agricultural credit cooperatives.

-Uninorte is an associate Cooperatives Europe member and is a member-based network that connects and supports local development in Portugal


In Portugal the research questionnaire was distributed to and completed by 1 member organisation in the country. The data collected was for the reference year 2017.




CASES - an ICA member - collected data from over 1400 cooperatives in the country, with a total number of memberships of 406,302, and a total number of 24,346 employees.

User cooperatives, producer cooperatives, worker cooperatives and multi-stakeholder cooperatives are all present in Portugal.

Its member organisations are active in the several sectors, including Agriculture, Banking, Wholesale and Retail Trade, Education and Construction. The graphics above provide more information. 


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. A snapshot of the results for Portugal are displayed below. To download the full report, click on the links above.



Portuguese cooperative law is based on four fundamental pillars: a) the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic; b) the Social Economy Basic Law; c) the Cooperative Code (PCC); and d) legislation specifically regulating the 12 different types of Portuguese cooperatives. The Constitution and PCC apply to all forms of cooperative, whereas other pillars only apply when they concern the respective cooperative sector.


In 2015, the PCC was reformed to adapt Portuguese law to new demands regarding cooperative governance and their distinct economic regime, without abandoning the ICA principles on cooperative identity.


The ICA principles are recognised both in the Articles 61.2 and 82.4a of the Constitution, and Article 3 PCC. Respect for the cooperative principles is mandatory, hence, a disrespect for the cooperative principles in the operation of a cooperative can be a cause for dissolution, according to Article 112.1.h PCC.


Cooperative friendliness

Overall, Portuguese cooperative legislation is regarded as significantly cooperative friendly. Cooperative law in Portugal provides legal-constitutional support to enshrine the cooperative principles. In particular, the experts note that Article 85.1 of the Constitution stipulates the state’s commitment and support for the creation and activities of cooperatives.


Key recommendations for improvement

The experts’ first main recommendation is a simplification of the tax system, to make it more beneficial for cooperatives. They further argue that EU Competition law should apply differently to cooperatives compared with for-profit enterprises and also for a re-adjustment of accounting tools for cooperatives. Finally, the experts recommend allowing large cooperatives to provide their management and representation bodies with technically qualified persons who are able to manage them effectively.



Whilst Portuguese cooperative law is cooperative friendly with legal-constitutional support for the cooperative principles, specific legislation on cooperative branches needs urgent and adequate reform. Cooperatives would benefit from changes to the tax regime and a stronger link between the cooperative movement and universities, to account for the needs of cooperatives in the 21st Century.



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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