The Social Economy in Europe – Growth of employment has been strong since the 2008 global financial crisis

A cooperative is typically defined as a business organisation that is democratically controlled and owned by its members and which works in the interest of its members.
A social enterprise is generally perceived as a business organisation with a social mission, working in the interest of its community or client group. This study investigates the contribution of European cooperatives and social enterprises to job creation and retention. It identifies the drivers of and barriers to job growth, explores employment conditions, details the support measures available in selected EU Member States and puts forward policy pointers to support delivery of these jobs.

Data on sector and performance

The available statistical data identify Italy as having the largest cooperative and social enterprise sector. The number of cooperative and social enterprise organisations and jobs varies considerably among the case study countries, and di erent data sources provide varying figures.

The available data and the views of national actors suggest that cooperatives and social enterprises have performed relatively well since the financial crisis. However, the overall performance of cooperatives and social enterprises and specific types of these organisations varies across the selected countries. Social cooperatives, in particular, have flourished.

Factors affecting employment

Creating and retaining jobs is dependent upon commercial success, reflecting the organisations’ ability to compete in current markets, to move into new markets and to develop and improve the goods and services they deliver. Innovation was the most frequently mentioned driver of employment, followed by retaining existing markets and customers and expanding into new markets or attracting di erent types of customer. Management skills and competencies were also cited as a key driver.

Cuts to public funding were a barrier, both in terms of reducing the resources that were available and in relation to making tendering more competitive. While the financial crisis led to job losses in some organisations, it also created opportunities which many organisations were able to build on.

Social enterprises contribute to employment in different ways – both directly, through employing workers, and indirectly, through training or preparing people for employment.

Monzón and Chaves provide an overview of employment in the social economy based on data from 2002–2003 and 2009–2010. They note that the growth of employment in the social economy in the EU has been strong since the 2008 global financial crisis, increasing from 11 million jobs in 2002–2003 to 14.5 million jobs in 2009–2010. When the contribution of social economy organisations to total employment is considered, data for 2009–2010 show that enterprises in the social economy – including cooperatives, mutuals, associations and foundations – employed approximately 6% of the EU workforce. With some exceptions, employment in social economy organisations was more prevalent in the EU15 (15 EU Member States prior to enlargement in 2004), providing paid work for 9–11% of the workforce (in countries such as Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden). This has been less prevalent in newer Member States, where employment in social economy organisations accounted for less than 5% (in countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) (Figure 3).

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Cooperatives and social enterprises: work and employment in selected countries


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