The Jornada sobre la Nueva Ley de Economía Social (Symposium on the New Law on Social Economy) took place at Salón de Actos, Grupo CRM, Valencia, Spain on 06th October 2011 to evaluate the importance of this law which was approved last March. Three speakers gave presentations on this sector which plays an important role in the Spanish economy. You can read the English translation of this law at: http://www.socialeconomy.eu.org/IMG/pdf/LEY_E_SOCIAL_TRADUCCION_INGLES.pdf .
The first speaker, Dr. Carmen Comos, director of CEPES (Confederación Empresarial Española de la Economía Social), focused on sharing their experience on the elaboration of the law. As CEPES gathers already between 85 to 90% of the social economy players throughout the country, it was rather easy to convince the legislators that this organisation represented the whole sector and that negotiations should begin to prepare the draft for the law. CEPES proposed the idea of this law to all the political parties just after the general elections in 2008 while it had internal discussions to reach the consensus that the law should have few articles without getting into details. In February 2009 the dialogue for this process between CEPES and the Ministry of Labour and Immigration started, which was not always pacific but triggered lots of debates. She underscored the following points:
- Approval of this law by unanimity
- Recognition of the social economy’s contribution on churning out jobs and incomes
- Establishment of the dialogue channel between the public sector and social economy players
- Obligation of the Spanish State and/or Autonomous Communities to promote the social economy
- Visualisation of the social economy to the entrepreneurs and to the academic world
There are challenges, however, to accelerate the growth of this sector, such as the edition of statistics and implementation of public policies so that there should not be any more hurdles at all against the social economy’s development.
The second speaker, Dr. Gemma Fajardo of IUDESCOOP (Instituto Universitario de Economía Social y Cooperativa) and from Universitat de València, explained what is defined in the law. She began by saying that the European Parliament’s Resolution on Social Economy in February 2009 was an important push for this law and pointed out that it is to show different economic activities under the same brand of social economy without changing regulations on each of them (such as non-profits (called in Spain as “asociaciones”) and coops), even she was quite critical on the definition of the players since, as she put it, not economic activities but the way to run them should be taken into account on achieving the social economy’s goals. She also indicated the contradiction between this law which makes Autonomous Communities to be in charge of this sector and the Article 131 of the Spanish Constitution which determines that it is the State which plans economic activities. On top of that she questioned the fact that the “voluntary and open membership”, clearly written on the Social Economy Charter, was omitted in the law.
The last speaker, Dr. José Luis Monzón of IUDESCOOP and of Universitat de València, analysed the social economy sector. He began by underlining that Spain is the first European country to stimulate this law with definitions coming from the European Parliament and from scientific researches, allowing this sector’s representatives to have dialogues with the public sector in order to plan public policies. He also said that the social economy is responsible for 10% of the national economy, employing more than one million people and showing the size with figures.
There is no doubt at all that the law should constitute an invaluable platform to stimulate the social economy, but it is also true that there is still a lot to do so that this economy should be truly promoted. Most people in Spain still do not know the social economy as it is and there is an urgent need that Autonomous Communities should start to spread out information, to provide training courses, to organise conferences and/or put into effect different public policies to accelerate the development of coops, non-profits etc. so that such economic activities as a whole should be widely recognised.
Another feature on which I would like to give a comment is that these presentations were quite Eurocentric without mentioning similar movements which are happening in other continents, such as Latin America (especially Brazil where the Secretary of Solidarity Economy, together with Brazilian Solidarity Economy Forum, has been building up this sector), Canada (especially Quebec) and Africa. Maybe I have such opinions because of my own views with a huge focus in Latin America and I must admit that most international collaborations that Spain has at the governmental level is by way of the European Union, but it would be quite relevant if such Spanish promoters of social economy should start to dialogue with their non-European partners to set up the channels of mutual learning.