Social and solidarity economy (SSE)

Social and solidarity economy (SSE)


The social and solidarity economy is comprised of organizations, cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, foundations and other structures whose status is defined as an association of individuals and not capital. Such structures are deeply established in French regions and actively participate in territorial development. From social action to financial and insurance activities, they mostly operate in the service sector.


In France, the Observatoire national de l’économie sociale et solidaire (National Observatory For Social and Solidarity Economy) published an overview of the social and solidarity economy in France and its regions, shedding light on the evolutions of this sector, which accounts for close to 10% of employment in the country.


Key figures:

  • 9.9% of French employment;
  • 2.3 million people employed;
  • 53.1 billion euros in gross compensation;
  • 215,000 establishments concerned;
  • Over 100,000 jobs created each year.


Every year in France, 1 out of 5 jobs is created by companies in the social economy. Average employment growth in the sector is significantly higher than for private firms and public organizations. The majority of staff members, including executives, are women. Social economy organizations are a driving force for employment and must anticipate the expected mass retirement in the years to come.


The social economy responds to local needs, focuses on disadvantaged communities, implements public policy and displays a strong capacity to innovate. It has a positive impact in terms of social cohesion. A compelling sign of the sector’s vitality is the uninterrupted growth of its activities and paid employment for the last 30 years. New organizations are being created to further encourage and promote this vision of the economy.


Case study: disability support


In France, there are several categories of social economy stakeholders focusing on disability:


  • Specialized institutions (nursing homes, care homes, vocational rehabilitation centers…);
  • Specialized services (public solidarity funds for autonomy; commission for the rights and autonomy of people with disabilities, etc.);
  • National and international advocacy organizations;


  • Researchers working on disabilities linked to diseases.


Social healthcare institutions


In France, a social healthcare institution is a private or public institution linked to social policy. Social services and equipment are subject to the same regulations. 


Such institutions carry out social work under the Code de l’action sociale et des familles (Social Work and Family Code). Opening and operating a social healthcare service or facility is not an independent decision and is subject to a specific administrative scheme and, more precisely, to an authorization scheme provided in articles L. 313-1 and subsequent of the Social Work and Family Code.


Depending on the targeted vulnerable group (at-risk minors, disabled people, older persons, individuals with chronic diseases, marginalized people) and the source of the funds that will cover the benefits (health insurance, departmental fund, State social support), the institution is under the authority of either the General Director of the Regional Health Agency (Agence régionale de santé), the President of the Departmental Council (Conseil général), the Regional Prefect (préfet de région), or several at the same time in case of joint competence.


These institutions are registered under a national file which indexes all of the institutions and services authorized to perform social work for citizens. 


In France, for historical and practical reasons, this file also contains health institutions (both public and private hospitals and clinics), since both social healthcare and health institutions are considered public health agents. Alongside care, disability and loss of autonomy prevention and compensation are part and parcel of the mission of public health.


This is the reason why article 18 of a law adopted on 21 July 2009 (“loi HPST”) unified Regional Health Agencies (ARS), public governance and health and social healthcare institutions under the same category.


The mission of social work and social healthcare


Law 2002-2 adopted on 2 January 2002 specifies the general interest and social utility missions of social healthcare institutions.


  1. Assessment and prevention of social health risks, information, investigation, counselling, guidance, training, mediation and reparation;
  2. Administrative or legal protection of children, families, young people, disabled people, elder people or people in need;
  3. Educational, medical, therapeutic, pedagogical and training activities adapted to each individual’s needs, level of development, potential, state and age;
  4. Access to education, help with adjustment, rehabilitation, social and professional inclusion and reintegration, help with return to work, information and counselling on technical and professional assistance;
  5. Help with daily activities, care and support, including palliative;
  6. Help with social and cultural development, integration through economic activity. 


Projects that specifically involve actors of the social healthcare industry respond to three objectives:


  • Reinforcement of a territorial approach (as promoted by the law “loi HPST”);
  • Evolution of funding models for social healthcare structures;
  • Development of assessment and quality improvement for social healthcare institutions.


Main functions:


  • Director General
  • Director of General Affairs
  • Financial Director
  • HR Director
  • Territorial Director
  • Head of Section (child welfare, disability, housing, etc.)
  • Specialized Institution Director



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