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Social economy at a glance

Level of development
Estimated share of employment
15 848**
Estimated paid employment

The Croatian social economy is not defined under a specific framework law. Certain entities can de facto be considered part of the social economy, however it remains difficult to have a reliable statistic on the number of social economies present in the country. Some estimations, from 2017, counted 105 de facto social enterprises, among which:

  • 32 associations
  • 44 cooperatives
  • 26 companies (pursuing general interest and operating as non-for-profit)
  • 2 institutions ("ustanova" in Croatian, which is a private institution pursuing general interest activities)

Source: Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Croatia, 2019


* For this website we included this overall assessment of the level of development, it is based on the data and information about the social economy ecosystem currently available and therefore has some limitations. However, we still considered it useful to include this overall assessment.
** Source: EESC/CIRIEC (2016) Recent evolutions of the Social Economy in the European Union, please note that this estimate is on the high end as it is based on organisation type and did not apply a more narrow check for all elements in the social economy definition.

For more details on the data quality see our note on social economy data.

Tradition and origins

It can be considered that Croatia already had a form of proto-social economy since the Middle Ages, with the emergence of different types of church-based voluntary and philanthropy organisations, as well as charities.

In the 19th century, associations, cooperatives, and foundations started to emerge as a way to answer social needs uncovered by the state. Cooperatives have been particularly strong in that period. One can specifically mention the tradition of students' cooperatives which encourage social involvement at a young age.

The socialist era put a stop to this spread, but some associations and cooperatives (such as housing cooperatives), had already started to reappear a decade before the transition. Since the 2000s however, the spread of cooperatives has decreased in Croatia, but some new forms have started to appear. Since 2005, the concept of "social entrepreneurship" has been adopted by certain associations and non-for-profit organisations as a way to consolidate more sustainable business models.

Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem

Policy and legal framework 

There is no specific law on social economy in Croatia. The government however issued a Strategy for Social Entrepreneurship Development in 2015. It provides a definition of social entrepreneurship and policy orientations, especially on the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as Roma people.

Some laws however structure the different legal forms that are part of the social economy in Croatia :

  • An act on Associations from 2014
  • An act on Cooperatives from 2011
  • An act on Trusts and Foundations from 1965
  • An act on Institutions from 1993

In 2015, Croatia adopted its first strategy. This “Strategy for the development of social economy for 2015-2020" envisaged to improve the legal framework and financial framework on social economy and to give more visibility to the sector. This strategy has not yet been fully implemented but the current Croatian ESF + programme plans to support some measures suggested by the strategy.

Policymakers in the field of the social economy 

At national levels, the Ministry of Labour and Pension System is responsible for creating a more enabling ecosystem for social economy entities to develop. It is therefore responsible for the implementation of the Strategy for Social Entrepreneurship Development.

However other ministries and National Agencies also take part in the development of the social economy as management authorities for the EU funding programmes:

  • The Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth, and Social Policy
  • The Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts,
  • The National Foundation for Civil Society Development,
  • The Croatian Agency for SMEs, Innovations, and Investments.

Networks, federation and representative entities 

Social economy still lacks official recognition. Therefore, the social economy ecosystem is not very developed in Croatia now. One can however note the existence of a few networks representing social entrepreneurs and other entities:

  • The Croatian Network of Social Entrepreneurs (HMDP) promotes social entrepreneurship in the country and provides networking activities to social entrepreneurs,
  • Act Group is a consortium of social enterprises, promoting impact driven activities. It provides support and organises workshops and theme festivals to promote new ways to make business.
  • The global social entrepreneurship NESsT is also present in Croatia

How to get involved in the social economy in Croatia?

In order to raise awareness on social economy and impact driven activities at a young age, Impact Hub Zagreb has developed several learning programs to enable children and young people, from 7 to 30 to try out social entrepreneurship. 

Furthermore, the academic community of Croatia is growingly involved in promoting the social economy, by starting some research study projects in the field, but also by offering courses on the topic in universities.

Get support

A few networks and representative organisations offer support to Croatian social economy entities. They especially provide:


The government and its national agencies have developed certain funding schemes that social economy entities can benefit from, such as:

  • Loan guarantees for SMEs
  • Grant schemes in support of innovation,
  • Employment subsidies to support inclusion measures.

Private actors can offer more tailored funding solutions to social economy entities:

Learn more about the social economy in Croatia