Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Social economy and inclusive entrepreneurship

The European Commission promotes the social economy and social and inclusive entrepreneurship because of their important role in job creation, work integration and inclusive and sustainable growth. The social economy can help implement the principles of the European Pillar for Social Rights and deliver on its 2021 Action Plan and the 2030 headline targets. It also contributes to achievement of the sustainable development goals.

The social economy encompasses a variety of businesses, organisations and legal forms, such as social enterprises, cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, non-profit associations and foundations – which all share the feature of systematically putting people first.

A social enterprise combines entrepreneurial activity with a social purpose. Its main aim is to have a social impact, rather than maximise profit for owners or shareholders. Businesses providing social services and/or goods and services to vulnerable persons are typical examples of social enterprises.

There are some 2.8 million social economy entities and enterprises in Europe, employing together around 13.6 million people. The share of the social economy in paid employment varies between 0.6% and 9.9% amongst Member States.

Inclusive entrepreneurship aims to ensure that all people, regardless of their personal characteristics and background, have equal opportunities to create and run a business.

The European Commission supports social and inclusive entrepreneurship through:

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