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Social economy at a glance

Level of development
Estimated share of employment
136 385**
Estimated paid employment

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:

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.

Get support

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.

Social economy networks such as Ashoka and NESsT offer tailored support to enable their member to better develop their activities. It can include :

  • Incubation and acceleration programs,
  • Pro bono consulting / technical assistance,
  • Capacity Building,
  • Training and workshops.

Read more about the Social Impact Award Romania here.


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,
  • Subsidies,
  • Reserved contracts for WISEs's goods and services.

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


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.