Social economy at a glance
In Romania social economy is constituted of legally recognised social enterprises, including social enterprises introduced by the 2015 law on social economy and WISES (social insertion enterprises) which represent :
- 103 registered social enterprises
- 10 social insertion enterprises
The Romanian social economy also includes a large number of de facto social enterprises, namely :
- 5302 associations and foundations,
- 219 mutual aid associations for retirees,
- 78 cooperatives pursuing general interest aims
- 708 WISES (sheltered workshops)
Overall, it was estimated in 2019 that 6000 social economy entities operated in Romania, employing over 19 000 workers.
Source : Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Romania, 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
Social economy has long-lasting roots in Romania, with old associative, mutualist and cooperative traditions. Already at the end of the medieval period, one can identify some first forms of social economy within the establishment of guilds, social charities and cultural organisations.
The role of this sector was confirmed and intensified in the 19th century, when associations and cooperative started to play a role in supporting the social transformations of the country and were provided with some legal recognition. Some specific forms, such as the Mutual Aid Associations, enabled the development of community-based solidarity and the local provision of public services.
During the communist period, mutuals, associations and cooperatives fall under the control of the State Party, therefore losing their independence. A rebirth of the sector started during the transition period. Traditional forms, such as Mutual Aid Associations gained momentum as providers of services, especially in the elderly care sector, but also in social protection.
Additionally, in the 2000s, some new forms started to emerge, e.g social enterprises. And other entities transformed their activities (associations and cooperatives) to offer more sustainable and impact-driven services, and to distance themselves from the devious vision they inherited from the communist era.
Framework conditions and social economy ecosystem
Policy and legal framework
Romania passed a law on Social Economy in 2015. It gives a definition of social economy and social enterprises, setting criteria for them to be recognised as such. It also introduces the "social insertion enterprise", which qualifies social enterprises dedicated to combat exclusion through social-professional integration activities.
A set of law complements the framework in which social economy can operate in Romania by recognising its fundamental role in tackling social and inclusion challenges:
- The law on Social Assistance,
- The Law on the Protection of People with Disabilities.
Some laws also enable the organisation of specific legal forms that can belong to the social economy:
- The Government Ordinance of 2000 introduced a status of "organisation of public benefit" social economy entities can be granted,
- The Law on the Organisation and Functioning of Cooperatives from 2005 regulates their functioning and insists on the increasing focus of their activities towards the public interest.
Policymakers in the field of the social economy
At national level, three main Ministries and their decentralised agencies are in charge of developing the social economy in Romania:
- The Ministry of Labour and Social Justice,
- The Ministry of European Funds,
- The Ministry of Economy.
Since the 2015 law on social economy, local authorities are expected to play a role in the support to the sector, especially by implementing measures for WISES and channeling European and national funding programs towards the sector.
Networks, federation and representative entities
Representative organisations have an important role within the Romanian social economy ecosystem. They advocate for the further recognition and support of the sector, while providing some assistance, through mutual support centers for instance. Among the different representative organisations, one can identify three main kinds:
- Representative bodies such as the Retiree's Mutual Aid Association National Federation (Omenia), or cooperatives' associations, for example Uniunea de Ramură Națională a Cooperativelor din Sectorul Vegetal (UNCSV) in the agricultural sectorand the Romanian National Union of Handicraft and Production Cooperatives Association (UCECOM) in the production sector.
- National and local consortia organised to carry-out social-impact driven and inclusion activities such as RISE, the Work Integration Social Enterprise Network, the Social Economy Coalition or the National Federation of NGOs for social services (FONSS)
- Support network for social entreprises : Ashoka Romania, NESsT.
How to get involved in the social economy in Romania?
There is a growing interest for social economy in Romania. Several universities now offer curriculars on social economy. Social economy education is also provided towards younger audiences, like in schools, through programmes such as the Junior Achievement program which enables young people to tackle social and economic challenges through an entrepreneurial experience.
On the public side, the government has issued a National Strategy for Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction that aims at developing the social economy by :
- Supporting the setting of new social enterprises, through funding in particular,
- The development of partnerships with labour market, education, social and health stakeholders,
- The development of networks to enable the sharing of good practices,
- The offering of tools for a better understanding of the sector and an improved visibility of its potential.
- Incubation and acceleration programs,
- Pro bono consulting / technical assistance,
- Capacity Building,
- Training and workshops.
The government has developed certain funding schemes that social economy entities can benefit from, such as:
- Grant schemes in support of innovation through the Start-Up Nation Programme,
- Reserved contracts for WISEs's goods and services.
Private actors can offer more tailored funding solutions to social economy entities:
- Microfinance via Erste Social Banking Group for example.
- Crowdfunding on platforms such as Go Get Funding.
Learn more about the social economy in Romania
- The IES - Institute of Social Economy provides information on social economy in Romania, including resources on the functioning of the social economy in the country, recent news on national and European policy on the social economy, but also, upcoming events. http://www.ies.org.ro/
- Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe, Country Reports, Romania, 2019. Link: Document database - Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion - European Commission (europa.eu)