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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 Production of Statistics for the Social Economy in Belgium. A Focus on Mutuals and Cooperatives


Fabienne FECHER

Full professor, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences,Université de Liège, Belgium


Université de Liège, Belgium

The lack of visibility of cooperatives and mutuals in present-day societies contrast with the increasing importance of those organizations, which are firmly established in every sector and branch of economic activity. Given the activities that they carry out and the goals that they pursue, the cooperatives and mutual societies are two essential components of the social economy. Through their mission of combining objectives that are economic as well as social, they represent readily identifiable forms of enterprises in the social economy. For those organizations, the creation of an economic added value is more of a means of achieving their objectives and values rather than the be-all and end-all of their activities.

The EU has some 246,000 cooperative enterprises with some 144 million citizen members, employing some 4.8 million persons. Nearly 120 million Europeans are covered by a health mutual and the mutuals hold a significant share of the life insurance and non-life insurance markets. Mutual societies represent 25% of the European insurance market and 70% of the total number of insurance companies in Europe.

In Belgium, the social situation during the 1970s gave rise to new initiatives in the social economy to hammer out solutions to problems in the field of employment and the environment. Today, new cooperatives ← 173 | 174 → have come into being...

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