The Social Economy – Putting the individual and social objective over capital

SOLIDAR attended the conference “Social Economy for the Future of the European Union” organised by Social Economy Europe, and hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Committee of the Regions on 6 February this week. With high-level speakers from different EU institutions, the objective of this gathering was to debate the future of the social economy in Europe and to assess the political steps taken in the last five years. 

The social economy comprises a variety of organisations and enterprises, such as cooperatives, mutual, associations, foundations, social enterprises or joint social protection institutions. The aim of this economic model is to reconcile economic and social issues. The social economy puts social objectives and the individual over capital while also balancing the interests of the members and users with the general interest. The social economy is the embodiment of the principles of solidarity and responsibility. While being independent from public authorities, the social economy follows a participatory approach with an emphasis on co-construction and profit re-investment.

The good news is: The social economy is already an economic reality in many countries of the European Union. The size and extent of the European social economy might come as a surprise. The social economy provides 8% of European GDP. According to a report of the European Economic and Social Committee, there are 2.8 million social economy enterprises operating in the European Union. The social economy employs a workforce of 13.6 million paid employees with an additional 5.5 million volunteers. The social economy must continue to grow, however, if it is to be recognised by more public and private decision-makers and for its outreach and impact to multiply. 

The European elections in May 2019 will be a decisive moment for setting political and social priorities for the next five years of the European Union. That said, we must ensure that the participation of citizens continues to be a priority and to grow in the sphere of politics and the economy. To advance the social economy in Europe, SOLIDAR supports Social Economy Europe’s 10 demands directed at the EU institutions and Members of European Parliament:

  1. Set-up a European Action Plan for the Social Economy
  2. Re-establish the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup
  3. Consolidate structured dialogue between the Social Economy and EU institutions
  4. Advance towards a European legal framework for all social economy enterprises and organisations
  5. Improve access to finance and EU funding for social economy enterprises and organisations
  6. Foster the role of the social economy in the external action of the European Union
  7. Put the social economy at the heart of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU semester, Cohesion Policy, the Sustainable Development Goals and the debate on the future of work
  8. Boost social and technological innovation and inter-cooperation among social economy enterprises and organisations
  9. Improve the visibility of the social economy
  10. Promote socially responsible public procurement

With its emphasis on solidarity, a primacy of values and democratic participation, SOLIDAR is convinced that the social economy must expand in size and magnitude to achieve a sustainable transition of the economic and political landscape. The social economy might not be a remedy for all social and economic questions but it certainly offers many solutions to societal challenges in Europe. 

Related content