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Victorian Social Enterprises Boosting Economy with Inclusive Workforce

5 December 2017 at 3:07 pm
Luke Michael
Social enterprises in Victoria contribute more than $5 billion to the state’s economy, and employ around 60,000 people – including 12,000 people with disability – according to a new government report.       

Luke Michael | 5 December 2017 at 3:07 pm


Victorian Social Enterprises Boosting Economy with Inclusive Workforce
5 December 2017 at 3:07 pm

Social enterprises in Victoria contribute more than $5 billion to the state’s economy, and employ around 60,000 people – including 12,000 people with disability – according to a new government report.          

Map for Impact: The Victorian Social Enterprise Mapping Project 2017 was commissioned by the Victorian government, as part of the implementation of a Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy launched in February this year.

The strategy looks to “position Victoria’s social enterprises as national leaders in driving employment participation and inclusive economic growth”.

The report found that social enterprises contribute at least $5.2 billion to the Victorian economy, and employ nearly 2 per cent of the Victorian workforce.    

“This first study to measure the economic impact of Victorian social enterprises finds that they are a significant employer and contributor to the Victorian economy,” the report said.

“The assumption that social enterprises create jobs for populations that may struggle to access employment opportunities is validated by the study, which finds that Victorian social enterprises employ a relatively high percentage of people with a disability, enable leadership opportunities for women, and create jobs for marginalised groups, such as the long-term unemployed.

“Further, economic analysis demonstrates that there is a positive multiplier effect, given the proportion of marginalised groups employed in Victorian social enterprises. This means there is an opportunity to leverage non-government spending, such as private sector investment and voluntary contributions, to yield more positive and inclusive employment outcomes across the state.”

The Victorian minister for industry and employment, Ben Carroll, launched the report last Friday. He said the project, led by the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology (CSI Swinburne), demonstrated the significant impact of social enterprises across the state.

“This report echoes exactly what we have felt all along, that Victoria’s social enterprises are not only incredibly important to the Victorian economy, but they’re having a huge impact on society,” Carroll said.

“Whether it’s cafes and catering, finance, or even mining, there are social enterprises that exist across all industries. Their contribution is creating jobs, creating a positive economic impact, and creating a positive social impact.This is a Victorian success story.”

The report found that more than a quarter of social enterprise jobs were held by groups facing substantial employment barriers.

“A large proportion (over 30 per cent) of social enterprise workers are from marginalised social groups that face particular challenges in gaining mainstream employment, such as people with a disability or the long-term unemployed,” the report said.

“Six per cent of social enterprise jobs are held by people previously experiencing long-term unemployment. It is important to note that many social enterprises did not have employee demographic statistics on record, and the proportion of jobs held by various groups, such as culturally and linguistically diverse populations and Indigenous Australians is likely underestimated in these results.”

Despite the growth of the social economy, the report found that financial sustainability was an issue for a quarter of Victoria’s social enterprises.

“One quarter of Victorian social enterprises report that they are currently not financially sustainable, which mirrors trends in the mainstream start-up economy. Of those that are not financially sustainable, 63 per cent are younger than five years, with 83 per cent established in the last 10 years. This suggests that early stage enterprises face the greatest financial challenges.”

Project lead and CSI Swinburne director, Professor Jo Barraket, said social enterprises were diverse and varied in terms of their legal structure and size, social mission and sources of income.

“Social enterprises are notoriously challenging to identify and locate. With the Map for Impact project, our aims were twofold: first to identify and locate Victoria’s social enterprises, then understand their characteristics and impacts,” Barraket said.

“We already know what a vital role they play in the social impact landscape, but revealing their economic and employment impacts has been really exciting.”

Lead researcher Dr Erin Castellas added that there was an opportunity to focus sector-building efforts on supporting social enterprises in their early stages, to ensure their long-term success.

“We know that social enterprises struggle with a lack of resources to support marketing, communication, and business development. Imagine a coordinated approach that includes policy support, government funding, early stage financing, capacity building, and so on,” Castellas said.

“The research really shows the ways we can develop social enterprises and further enhance the inclusive economy that they foster.”

To accompany the report, CSI Swinburne developed an online interactive map showing interactive details about Victoria’s social enterprises. It can be viewed here.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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