Social enterprises for state support

In Serbia, only a little over 10 social enterprises have been registered so far, but it's estimated that between 200 and 500 associations, cooperatives, and other legal entities operate in accordance with the solidarity economy. To enable them to apply for the support measures the government is preparing this spring, including funds amounting to 50 million dinars, NALED invites all social enterprises to take advantage of the registration right and be prepared to embrace the Development Program.

Social enterprises contribute to a fairer society as they combine market activities with inclusive and fair employment practices in their basic principles. They place equal importance on economic and social aspects, and their management and decision-making are based on solidarity and equality. Although there are 10 million social enterprises worldwide, creating 200 million jobs, the concept is still not clear enough in Serbia.

Therefore, as part of the project "Public Procurement and Good Governance for Increased Competitiveness," with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), NALED is launching consultations on the program and the campaign "Social Entrepreneurship: A Solution for a Better Tomorrow." This initiative aims to help those who are yet to register understand the criteria, conditions, and procedures for registration, as well as the benefits of obtaining the status.

Some of the measures proposed by civil society and included in the Draft Program are of a financial nature and focus on supporting startup businesses, purchasing equipment, and employment support. However, there are many other measures, such as providing workspace, expert and advisory support, market positioning, strengthening the capacities of social enterprises, and more.

- Few people in our country know what social entrepreneurship is, and yet it should serve us as a country that is seriously addressing unemployment. Twelve years ago, unemployment in Serbia was almost 26%, but today it is 9%. So, as a country, we have significantly exhausted the available labor force reserves, and it's time to address hard-to-employ population groups," said the President of the Council for Social Entrepreneurship and Minister of Labor, Employment, Veterans' and Social Affairs Nikola Selaković at the campaign launch.

Hard-to-employ population groups include people with disabilities, as well as vulnerable groups such as long-term unemployed women, unskilled workers, victims of domestic violence, etc. In Serbia, there are 260,000 people who are long-term unemployed, including 153,000 women over the age of 50.

Violeta Jovanović, Executive Director of NALED, emphasized that women who are long-term unemployed often possess concrete skills that, with adequate support, can be the foundation for women's empowerment and income generation. One such example is the association "Etno Network," which supports hundreds of women across Serbia in preserving cultural heritage and achieving economic empowerment.

- Social enterprises led by women can have a significant impact on the lives of other women, mainly through education, training, creating new jobs, combating human trafficking and gender stereotypes, accessing funding sources, and giving women a voice in their communities. One of the main goals of the campaign we are launching is to call on all entities operating in this sector to register and thus qualify for contests and measures that will follow through the Development Program," Jovanović said.

Anica Spasov, President of the association "Naša kuća," stated that she has been active for more than ten years in drafting the Social Entrepreneurship Law, as it is the only way she can rely on support from the state and local governments. "We have no alternative; this is the only way for a better life for our children," concluded Spasov.

Two years ago, Serbia adopted the Social Entrepreneurship Law, defining the concept of the solidarity economy and the conditions for obtaining the status of a social enterprise. At that time, the Council for the Development of Social Entrepreneurship was established to design a sector development program, which would be consistently and continuously implemented.

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