- The social economy accounts for around 10% of the Union's GDP (European Commission figure)

- Every year, one new company in four is a social enterprise; this figure rises to one in three in France, Finland and Belgium (source: Commission)

- The crisis has not slowed this tendency: the number of jobs in the social economy rose from 11 million in 2002-2003 to more than 14 million in 2009-2010, corresponding to 6% and 6.5%, respectively, of all wage earners in the EU27 (Ciriec international analysis, 2012)

- In France, 70,000 paid jobs were created in this sector in 2008-2009, a 2.9% increase in jobs (compared with a decline of 1.6% in the rest of the private sector and 4.2% in the public sector)

- In the United Kingdom, a recent study shows that, in proportion to their turnover, social enterprises have more employees than other small enterprises (OECD-Commission)

- The countries with a long-established tradition of social economy structures are France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Belgium, Italy and Sweden are following suit.

Sector's difficulties

Social enterprises have difficulty accessing capital and markets. Traditional financial institutions often turn down their loan requests because social enterprises do not fulfil the conditions required for their habitual clients and do not seem to offer sufficient guarantees. Access to markets, starting with public procurement, is hampered by current policies, by usages more favourable to SMEs and by internal difficulties (lack of management capacity, training weaknesses).

European map announced for April

Social enterprises operate in a wide range of activities, including social services, education, housing, environment, culture and arts, and tourism, and in new areas, such as renewable energy, fair trade and transport. They take a number of legal forms. Several member states have adopted national laws regulating social enterprises, notably Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Finland and the United Kingdom. There is presently no map of social enterprises in Europe, but the European Commission is working on one and plans to present a thorough report in April 2014.


Social economy organisations (traditional): Cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, foundations, NGOs

Social entrepreneurship: Enterprises established for a social or environmental aim and the limited pursuit of...

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