12th Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy - Plenary Session 5: The importance of statistical instruments in measuring the SSE

News | 10 January 2022
The fifth plenary session of the Academy took place on November 23rd. It aimed at shedding light on measurement concerns around the size and composition of the SSE, and its contributions to social, economic and environmental goals. The keynote speaker was Mr. Francisco Lima, President of National Statistics Portugal. The discussants were Mr. Juan Fernando Alvarez (CIRIEC-Colombia), Mr. Jamil Chaabouni (Conseil National de Statistique, Tunisia) and Ms. Marie J. Bouchard (CIRIEC-Quebec, Quebec University in Montreal). The session was moderated by Ms. Simel Esim, the Head of the Cooperatives Unit at the ILO and facilitated by Ms. Giulia Melina (ITC-ILO).

The moderator, Ms. Simel Esim, opened the session by highlighting the lack of statistics on the SSE. She noted this has often been an impediment for governments to establish informed policies on the SSE. Ms. Esim highlighted the need to establish dialogue between producers and users of statistics in the development of specific tools and methodologies on the SSE. She pointed out that some methods are emerging, such as satellite accounts.

Mr. Francesco Lima, President of National Statistics Portugal and keynote speaker for the session, shared the experience on statistics concerning the SSE in Portugal. He elaborated on the development of a satellite account and the implementation of surveys on specific organizational forms under the SSE.

The SSE satellite account developed by National Statistics Portugal is a calculation of size, demand and offer of the SSE sector in the country, he noted. It also provides other second level data, such as the impact of the SSE on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), he added. Mr. Lima said that the main challenge in developing satellite accounts was to guarantee the highest comparability of data, largely due to the lack of a consistent methodology for data collection on the SSE. To overcome this, they adopted a modular approach, based on a general look at the SSE accompanied by a specific focus on different types of SSE organisations (cooperatives, foundations, casas da misericórdia, etc).

For the next editions of the account, Mr. Lima added, National Statistics Portugal is planning to implement a series of surveys targeting other aspects of the SSE. For example, the technology potential, the innovation potential, the role of trade unions with respect to the SSE, the administrative procedures, social security aspects, etc. Mr. Lima also highlighted that different countries should align their procedures and methodologies in order to ensure international comparability of data on the SSE. He also presented some insights on specific research implemented by National Statistics Portugal. A survey targeting voluntary work showed a very diverse population. This segment is very important because it can be compared with other indicators, for example around unemployment. Furthermore, it was necessary to take into account the difference between formal and informal volunteer work. The survey showed that there are 695 thousand volunteers in Portugal (7,8 per cent of the population). The second specific research addressed the management practices of Portuguese organisations. It covered all types of organisations in the country, but it had a specific reference to organisations of the SSE. This survey helped to identify five main types of SSE organisations in the Portuguese economy.

In conclusion, Mr. Lima reflected on the future directions for the development of statistics for the SSE. First of all, he underlined the importance of involving the users, to identify information gaps and to pressure governments and public agencies to invest in the production of information. Furthermore, it is important for organisations and persons operating in the SSE to understand the value of specific information and data on the sector. Finally, Mr. Lima highlighted the role played by national statistical offices in continuously identifying new data sources, new data integration, new approaches, new statistical indicators, as well in the promotion of partnerships and cooperation.

The presentation of Mr. Lima is available here: en - es - fr - pt

After the keynote speech, Ms. Esim passed the floor onto Mr. Jamil Chaabouni from the National Statistical Council of Tunisia. Mr. Chaabouni reflected on the importance of tailor-made legislative tools to support the production of statistics. Since 2011, he noted there is increased political attention to the SSE.

However, no satellite account nor other major statistical data collection was implemented in the following years. In 2017, finally, a Strategic Study on the SSE in Tunisia was commissioned by the Government. Presented in 2018, the study recommended the development of statistics on the SSE, as a basis for policy-making. Following these recommendations, a working group was established, with representatives from all Ministries, academia, the ILO and other relevant national organisations. The goal of the working group was to develop an overview of the SSE stakeholders in the country, and eventually a satellite account. In the process, they became aware of the lack of an agreed definition and framing of the SSE. A Technical Committee was established to develop a common framing of the sector that could be used as a basis for further initiatives.

The second discussant was Ms. Marie J. Bouchard, a professor at the Quebec University in Montreal and member of CIRIEC-Quebec. Ms. Bouchard presented on the situation of statistics on the SSE in Quebec. In Quebec the SSE is legally recognised, and there is a steady collaboration on the topic with the regional statistical institute, she noted.

In 2019, a statistical overview of the SSE in the region was published which was the result of a very large project, where many different stakeholders were involved, among which SSE organisations, public institutions and the university, she added. The framework was developed on the basis of an earlier project conducted by a group of university researchers nine years earlier in the Municipality of Montreal, Ms. Bouchard highlighted. This project aimed at developing a conceptual framework to understand the statistical population of the SSE, she highlighted, was implemented in 2010, three years before the establishment of the law on SSE. The law itself was influenced by this work, because the statistical definition served as a basis for the legal definition of the SSE in Quebec, she emphasized. Furthermore, in 2015 the government adopted an SSE Action Plan that also included the production of statistics on the SSE as a key action area, she noted. An extensive enquiry was launched, investigating not only economic indicators, but also indicators related to social and organisational aspects of the SSE, including social mission, governance, role of volunteering, etc. she mentioned The result of this enquiry, concluded Ms. Bouchard was a double classification, framing of the SSE organisations in terms of economic sector of operation, but also according to social goal.

The last discussant of the session Mr. Juan Fernando Alvarez, a member of CIRIEC-Colombia, outlined development of statistics on the SSE in Latin America focusing on Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico. In Latin America, statistics on the SSE are at an initial stage in most of the countries, but the national governments are working to consolidate these processes, he noted.

The main challenge is to harmonise the different national frameworks and definitions of the sector and its foundational characteristics, as the SSE has different roots and incorporates different organisations in different countries of the region, said Mr. Alvarez. Another challenge is constituted by identifying the sources of data to elaborate comprehensive statistics, he indicated. In some countries, the main sources are the inspectory and promotional bodies of the SSE. In other countries, the main sources are the national regulatory bodies that monitor economic and organisational processes at the level of the general economy, he suggested. Finally, in other countries the data are collected by sectoral or interbranch organisations, he suggested. In general however, concluded Mr. Alvarez, every country is planning to develop some form of statistics on the SSE. Costa Rica and Colombia, in particular, are developing satellite accounts in collaboration with technical partners such as the ILO, he concluded.

The presentation of Mr. Alvarez is available here: en - es - fr - pt

The session was concluded with a Q&A round among the panelists, conducted by Ms. Esim.

Click here to watch the recording of the session in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

For more information on the 12th edition of the SSE Academy, click here.