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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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The Construction of Social and Solidarity Economy Statistics in France. A Progressive Mobilization of Very Diverse Actors



Economist at Sciences Po Grenoble, France

with contributions from


Former head of the Observatoire national de l’Économie Socialeet Solidaire, France


Project coordinator, Chambre Régionale de l’Économie Socialeet Solidaire Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

Daniel RAULT

Former technical advisor, Délégation interministérielle à l’innovation,à l’expérimentation sociale et à l’économie sociale, France

The history of statistics on the social and solidarity economy (SSE) is, as with the history of general statistics in France (Desrosières, 2000), a social construction that reflects the mobilization as well as the representations and resistances of various social and institutional actors. SSE statistics in France took shape outside of an institutional environment with the recognition of the social economy by national actors and governments in the 1980s. Although INSEE1 is a key actor in this process, statistics on ← 161 | 162 → the SSE are still produced by multiple private actors. Moreover, despite a growing consensus on the weight of the SSE in the overall economy, even leading to the appointment of a Minister of the SSE and to the adoption of a legislation,2 and despite the fact that the figures and the longitudinal monitoring are taking shape, many questions remain regarding the scope, the categories and the indicators.

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