Presidency of the Council of the European Union

10/09/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/09/2023 08:56

The social economy, an alternative form of management that the Spanish presidency wants to promote

Article 9 October 2023

The social economy, an alternative form of management that the Spanish presidency wants to promote

A man thins an olive tree in the area of ​​Luciana, in Ciudad Real. © EFE/Mariano Cieza Moreno

The Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU has set itself the objective of promoting the development of the social economy, in line with the European Commission's Action Plan and the recommendation adopted by the Council on october.

The social economy encompasses a wide range of entities with different business models based on cooperative, associative and non-profit organisations, which put human and social benefits before purely economic ones.

On 9 December 2021, the European Commission agreed on a new Action Plan with the aim of taking concrete steps to help mobilise the full potential of the social economy in the EU.

Workers at the Trops plant in front of dozens of mangoes. © EFE/Daniel Luque

Furthermore, on 9 October 2023 the Council of the European Union agreed its first recommendation on social economy, with a view to promoting social inclusion and access to the labour market of the people who develop this activities.

The text urge the EU Member States to take measures in order to acknowledge and support the role of the social economy in:

  • Easing access to the labour market.
  • Fostering social inclusion, by providing accessible and high-quality social and care services.
  • Stimulating skills development, including skills needed for the digital and green transitions.
  • Promoting social innovation and sustainable economic development.

A sector of great economic and social importance to the EU

In the EU, the social economy sector has around 2.8 million organisations and entities that generate 6-8% of EU GDP and contribute more than 13 million jobs, or 6.3% of the workforce, to the economy.

Olive reception line in a plant of a cooperative in Herrera (Seville). © EFE/Raúl Caro

The social economy sector is made up of private entities of various legal types, including cooperatives, foundations, associations, mutual societies and social enterprises.

In the EU, cooperatives - worker-owned and democratically managed companies - are of particular economic importance. The EU is home to some of the largest cooperatives in the world, with particular representation in the agri-food and banking sectors.

2,8 M


+13 M


6-8 %


Mutual societies are not-for-profit entities in which a group of people pool capital to enjoy shared services, usually insurance and supplementary social security schemes, among others.

Mutual societies account for almost 70% of insurance companies in Europe and 25% of the market.

Foundations are not-for-profit organisations that fund and promote charitable activities for the common good. There are 147,000 registered public foundations in Europe, with €511.3 billion in assets and endowments.

Social enterprises are entities that operate by supplying goods and services to the market, but with social and/or environmental objectives as the reason for their business activity, while associations are not-for-profit legal entities that can carry out economic activities on the condition that they do not distribute any profits among their members.