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The Weight of the Social Economy

An International Perspective


Edited By CIRIEC, Marie J. Bouchard and Damien Rousselière

What is the weight of the social economy? How should we measure it? Throughout the world, cooperatives, non-profit and mutual benefit organizations, foundations and other social enterprises play an important role in job creation, social cohesion, social innovation, regional development and environmental protection. Observations tend to confirm the ability of the social economy to contribute to balancing economies, mainly by serving as an anti-cyclical force in the face of economic crises. However, many countries and regions lack statistical information about its weight, size and scope on their territory.
This book fills a gap in the literature about the social economy. It seeks to explain why it is important to have statistics on it, to understand how they are produced, and to project how the social economy might be better understood in the future. The book offers researchers and decision-makers an overview of the current state of knowledge on these topics.

This book is the result of the International Ciriec working group on "The Weight and Size of the Social Economy – International Perspectives for the Production of Statistics for the Social Economy" developed by the CIRIEC International Scientific Commission "Social and Cooperative Economy":

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Introduction. The Weight, Size and Scope of the Social Economy

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Full professor, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada


Full professor, AGROCAMPUS OUEST, France

There is a growing interest in statistics about the social economy. Throughout the world, the social economy plays an important role in job creation and retention, social cohesion, social innovation, rural and regional development, and environmental protection. In a number of countries, significant work has been done by national statistical agencies and by researchers (academic and institutional) to gather national and international data. Results tend to confirm the ability of the social economy to contribute to balancing economies, mainly by serving as an anti-cyclical force in the face of economic crises (Stiglitz, 2009; European Parliament and European Commission, 2014). The social economy is seen as having a strong potential in addressing global challenges in a renewed economy (Utting, van Dijk and Matheï, 2014).

Still, many countries and regions lack information about the social economy on their territory. Nor is there a harmonized body of data on the social economy at the global level. Moreover, a body of knowledge for promoting the importance of the social economy in the public realm has not been compiled to date. The purpose of measuring a phenomenon is to ensure its social and political recognition, namely to justify government support (Anheier, Knapp and Salamon, 1993). Here, public authorities and key players in the system have formulated requests to measure and evaluate the contribution of the...

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