France pays attention to Spain’s social economy model, so should the UK

By Julia Pastor, in Madrid | In March 2010, the Spanish congress passed the Social Economy law. A milestone for Spain but also for Europe, as it was the first legislative text of the continent that recognises and regulates a common framework for the cooperative economy.

The Spanish law has attracted the interest of neighbouring France, which would like to use the Spanish model for developing its own Social Economy Act and it has invited CEPES (the Spanish Business Confederation of Social Economy) to the National Assembly so they can study first hand the details of the Spanish law. The magazine Consejeros published in its latest issue an article writen by CEPES president Juan Pedro Pedreño describing what this contact was like and sharing some of the cooperative sector data in Spain.

“The adoption of the Social Economy Act places Spain at the forefront of European Social Economy, a fact that is causing great interest in countries around Spain. This is the case in France: a country with a long tradition in social economy, which has a powerful business network of more than 800,000 entities with 2 million employees and a turnover that accounts for 10% of the GDP. Historically, France has played a key role in defining the concept of what a Social Economy business is. In 1980, its government was the first in the European Union to adopt a decree which recognised and identified Social Economy. Since then, the sector has evolved and reached an important economic and social presence, with Spain being one of the reference countries in the world.”

“The Business Council, the Social Economy Groups and Employers of France (CEGES), which is the state organisation representative of the Social Economy companies, opened in late 2011 an internal debate among the cooperative organisations and the mutual funds associations to prepare a draft of a Social Economy Act similar to the Spanish one. In this process the National Assembly is also actively participating  and, in particular, its Commission on Economy […] In this context, CEPES has had the opportunity to participate in a work session when they introduced the general features of the law as well as its elaboration process.”

“The first point to note is that the law explores the institutional recognition, economic and social development of the core values of social economy (the individual over capital, solidarity, participation, democracy, the inclusion of excluded work collectives and a commitment to employment). A second significant element is the fact that the Act established the capacity of social economy entities to create jobs and promote local development, equal opportunities and social cohesion. Nowadays, all these aspects are key in boosting the economy not just in Spain but also in Europe.”

“The social economy in Spain was able to generate in 2010 5% more jobs than in the previous year. We wanted to strengthen the support for the need of a political commitment to a sector in Spain of more than 46,000 companies, responsible for the employment of 12.6% of the working population (2,350,000 workers) with sales of around €86 billion euros, that is, almost 10% of the Spanish GDP.”

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