A SOCIAL ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABILITY: IS THERE POTENTIAL FOR AN INTERFACE?
Keywords:social economy, creation of decent jobs, role of structures such as cooperatives, economic growth
South Africa is plagued by high unemployment, extreme poverty and a worrying skills deficit. Job creation strategies focus on the formal economy, but some argue that the focus should shift to policies that would help with the expansion and development of the social (or solidarity) economy that exists alongside the public and private sectors. This sector is driven mainly by a concern to better the interests of their members, or to fulfil a public benefit, rather than to maximize profits. It has been argued that cooperatives provide a suitable vehicle for organizing workers in this sphere. Jackson (Prosperity Without Growth, 2011), in advancing the idea of a sustainable economy, calls for macro-economic interventions that, inter alia, include a structural transition to service-based activities and working-time policies aimed at the
facilitation of shared work. The former strategy (structural transition to service-based activities), although developed in a completely different context, shares many synergies with the underlying notions associated with the development of a social economy. It evolves around business models providing services which are resource-light, but which are not the same as the service sector development which,
worldwide, is associated with a concomitant decline in the primary and secondary sectors.
The article explores, first, the potential of the social economy as a site for the creation of decent jobs and the possible role in this regard of structures such as cooperatives and, second, whether any meaningful lessons can be drawn in this regard from the research that has be done on the “greening” of economic growth.
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