human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Promoting more inclusive labour markets

through social economy enterprises

The promotion of more inclusive labour markets has long been a priority for Caritas as it reflects one of the pillars of Caritas’ social model together with family and social protection.

Work has the potential to enhance the human dignity of every person. Work is a crucial aspect for people to enjoy full participation in society, and societies should aim at creating job opportunities for all. In line with active inclusion policies, adequate income, sustainable employment, and good services remain mandatory objectives for every economic system oriented towards justice and the common good. Inclusive labour markets, therefore, should recognise the value of work and people’s contributions to society.

Work is a fundamental right which is recognised in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR)[1] and the Revised European Social Charter (ESC)[2].

The agenda 2030 Sustainable  Development  Goal (SDG)  n. 8  on  decent  work  and  economic  growth  includes  a  specific  target on inclusive labour markets:  ‘By  2030,  [to]  achieve  full  and  productive  employment  and  decent  work  for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.’ Fostering inclusive labour markets contributes also to the achievement of other SDGs, in particular the n. 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), n. 5 (Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls) and 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries).

Also the European Pillar of Social Rights, which has the objective to contribute to social progress by supporting fair labour markets and welfare systems, builds upon 20 principles structured around three categories out of which two are strongly linked with inclusive labour markets:

  1. Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, covering aspects of fairness related to education, skills and lifelong learning, equality of treatment and opportunities between women and men, inequality, access to goods and services, poverty and upward mobility, living conditions, and youth;
  2. Dynamic labour markets and fair working conditions, covering labour force structure, labour market dynamics, and income; delivering new and more effective rights for citizens.

Social Economy Enterprises (SEEs), by their own nature, fully contribute to inclusive labour markets. An increasing number of governments recognise the role of SEEs in generating employment in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. SEE also contribute to countering the growth of precarious employment and the inability of the traditional formal sector to fulfil its role of absorbing surplus labour from, for example, rural areas.

Social Economy Enterprises offer a new additional option of training and employing opportunities for people furthest from the labour. They can close the gap between traditional job-training programmes and the regular labour market. Jobs and training positions in a SEE can be seen as an intermediate step for people who have successfully finished traditional job-training programmes but who still struggle to find a place in the labour market. For them, Social Economy Enterprises offer the possibility of gaining practical working experience in an environment very similar to the regular labour market and, subsequently, better chances for a decent job.

Social Economy Enterprises can also offer an additional inclusive component by enhancing individual strengths and competency by applying a challenging and supportive approach, i.e. SEEs need to successfully compete with ‘regular’ companies in the market. Therefore Social Economy Enterprises provide a considerable opportunity, especially for people who have a certain level of job-readiness and a high potential of inclusion in the labour market. Working in a simultaneously challenging and supportive environment gives them the chance to develop new skills and self-confidence, while the enterprise itself competes on the market somewhat like other businesses.

Promoting inclusive labour markets is the main reason why Caritas supports and manages hundreds of Social Economy enterprises across Europe and advocates European Institutions and EU Member States to better support social enterprise and for the recognition of their key role in our society and economy.

Caritas Europa has recently launched a Handbook on how Caritas works on Social Economy. There, you can further read about the contribution of Social Economy to Caritas Social Model and to SDGs, as well as find a lot of promising innovative practices supported by Caritas members across Europe.


[1] Article 15, 1 CFR states that “Everyone has the right to en-gage  in  work  and  to  pursue  a  freely  chosen  or  accepted  occupation.”

[2] Article 1 ESC on the right to work specifies that: “With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to work, the Parties undertake:1.  to accept as one of their primary aims and responsibilities  the  achievement  and  maintenance  of  as  high  and  stable  a  level  of  employment  as  possible,  with  a  view  to  the attainment of full employment; 2.  to protect effectively the right of the worker to earn his[/her] living in an occupation freely entered upon.” ARTICLE 2 ESC declares the right to just conditions of work. ARTICLE 4 ESC states the right to a fair remuneration

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Antonio Fantasia

Policy and Advocacy Officer
Caritas Europa

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