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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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Mapping the Field of the Social Economy. Identifying Social Economy Entities



Full professor, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada


Professor, FAE Business School, Brazil


Economist, MCE Conseil, Canada

The starting point in qualifying the social economy is that all its definitions underline the primacy of the social purpose over the economic activity. This applies in particular to the empirical features that are typical of the structures and the operation of the social economy and that distinguish it from the rest of the economy. This chapter analyzes some of the most important statistical studies on the social economy conducted by researchers, academic experts, public institutions and statistical offices in various parts of the world. The resulting conceptual frameworks for producing statistics about the social economy usually establish which type of entities, legal statuses and activity sectors are excluded and identify a cluster of qualification criteria and statistical indicators of social economy organizations. Typologies of organizations can also be determined for other criteria, such as the goals and missions or the modes of financing them. A conceptual framework for qualifying social economy organizations should also allow assessing peripheral developments or trends in this field and to anticipate its ← 69 | 70 → progress (e.g., the recognition of new organizations as belonging to the social economy, and their integration).

The first task in any production of statistics is to define the “object” or the “beings” to be measured (Desrosières, 1993), namely, by...

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