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Social economy can create sustainable wellbeing in Finland and throughout Europe

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 12.1.2022 11.52 | Published in English on 13.1.2022 at 10.19
Kuvassa on työmarkkinaneuvos Tuija Oivo
Tuija Oivo

The European Commission wants to increase opportunities for a successful social economy in Europe. The Commission’s interest in the matter is based on the benefits that the social economy can bring for employment and the economy as a whole. The Commission published its action plan for the social economy on 9 December 2021.

I have closely followed the Commission’s preparations. I am very pleased that the Commission recognises the significance of the social economy as a resource for the economy and employment in Europe. We must make full use of the opportunities offered by the social economy to help solve the social and ecological problems of our time.

Opportunities of the social economy remain untapped

There are 2.8 million social economy actors in Europe, employing 13.6 million people. In Finland, the field of the social economy includes approximately 1,700 social enterprises. Their combined turnover is almost 5.8 billion euros and more than 50,000 people work in them. 

However, the social economy still offers significant, untapped opportunities to increase economic activity and employ people.

Social economy organisations are communities that put social and environmental objectives first. They also invest most of their revenue to promote these objectives. As the EU and its Member States will start to support the functioning of the social economy, new jobs can be created. At the same time, the social impact of organisations will increase across the EU. 

The social economy includes a variety of businesses, organisations and legal entities, such as social enterprises, cooperatives, non-profit associations and foundations. They operate in many economic sectors, such as social services, healthcare, social welfare, affordable and renewable energy, circular economy, agriculture as well as finance and insurance. Social economy actors also operate in the fields of culture, media and recreation. 

Social economy actors create wellbeing

Those involved in the social economy create long-term, high-quality jobs and promote social inclusion and people’s participation in working life. They promote sustainable economic development and active participation of citizens. Many social economy actors contribute to improving people’s wellbeing.

When Europe begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the social economy could play a key role in ensuring that this recovery is just and inclusive. Similarly, the social economy can help achieve the goals of the European Green Deal and introduce digital solutions to ease people’s daily lives.  In this way, the social economy is linked to the large-scale programmes already launched by the EU and their ambitious objectives.

In order to make full use of the opportunities offered by the social economy, it is important to raise the visibility and awareness of it. In addition, the operating environment must have the right conditions to support the social economy actors. The operating environment is affected by taxation and decisions concerning public procurement, government support and such.  Support is needed to launch start-ups and to develop and spread the operating models. The Commission is pursuing all this in its social economy action plan.

Action plan forms an excellent base for Finland’s objectives

In Finland, we keep up with the times. The Government adopted a strategy on social enterprises last spring. In accordance with it, a national Centre of Expertise for Social Enterprises was established in October 2021 to serve social enterprises and those interested in them. The Centre’s activities are based on solid expertise of a network of six enterprises and organisations.

The Centre supports social enterprises regardless of the type of company or sector in order to improve skills, capabilities and resourcing related to the business model and to increase awareness. During its first months of operation, the Centre of Expertise has focused on building national advisory and guidance services on different themes. 

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has awarded the Centre a government grant for 2021–2023.  In future, the Centre of Expertise is set to receive funding from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) programme in 2021–2027. 

Tuija Oivo
Labour market counsellor 
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment