Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Questions (2087, 2089, 2093)

John Lahart


2087. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of social enterprises registered in Ireland. [15799/21]

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John Lahart


2089. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of new social enterprises that were registered in Ireland in 2020.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15801/21]

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John Lahart


2093. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the breakdown of the sectors under which Irish social enterprises are registered; and the way in which the majority are registered within each sector. [15805/21]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2087, 2089 and 2093 together.

Social enterprises are businesses that work primarily to improve the lives of people. Their core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving their core social objectives. 

Social Enterprises operate across a very wide range of sectors and are constituted using a variety of legal forms. There is no centralised register of social enterprises retained by the Companies Registration Office, or elsewhere.

Additionally, while many social enterprises are charities, and are legally required to register with the Charities Regulator, there is no requirement to declare that they are social enterprises during that process.  As a consequence, and given the relatively recent publication of a National Policy definition of social enterprise in 2019, it is not possible at this time to provide an accurate estimate of the number of social enterprises that are registered in Ireland.

Several reports on social enterprise in Ireland have pointed to the limited empirical evidence and data about the scope, prevalence, and contribution of social enterprise in Ireland. Attempts have been made to estimate the scale and scope of the sector, but these estimates are not necessarily reliable or up to date.

Improving data collection and developing impact measurement mechanisms are two of the 26 measures for delivery contained in the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022. My Department is actively researching data collection methods, and currently engaging in scoping activities with relevant Government Departments and agencies as well as Higher Education Institutions and social enterprise stakeholders. It is envisaged that this work will, at minimum, provide more reliable information including economic data and numbers of staff employed by social enterprises in Ireland, as well as the sectors of activity.

With regard to the sectors that social enterprises operate in, and how they are legally constituted, in May 2020, my Department conducted a short survey on the impact of COVID-19 on social enterprises in Ireland. There were 523 responses to this survey. This was a self-declaration survey, and is likely to represent a relatively small percentage of the overall cohort.  However, the following tables offer an insight into the sectors of activity of the social enterprises who responded, and the predominant legal forms utilised.

Sector of Business Activity


Local/Community   Development


Social Health/Community   Care














Legal Constitution of Social Enterprise


Company Limited by   Guarantee




Designated Activity   Company