Thursday, May 23, 2024

India, China and USA are the giants of the social enterprise world, reveals new dataset by World Economic Forum and Schwab Foundation

Must read

There are 10m social enterprises worldwide, 30m social entrepreneurs, and India, China and the USA have the most social enterprises, reveals a study published today by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the World Economic Forum. 

The State of Social Enterprise: A review of global data 2013-2023 estimates the size and scope of social enterprises around the world. An interactive website allows visitors to explore the detail of the available data across several themes.

The insights drawn from this are as important as the realisation that we need much stronger, more reliable and more frequent data

This detailed analysis follows a briefer report which was published during the World Economic Forum meeting in January, and which identified for the first time a figure of 10m social enterprises worldwide. Drawing upon facts and figures collected by a range of organisations across more than 80 countries in recent years, this is the most comprehensive dataset of the sector that has yet been published. 

In the foreword to today’s publication, Hilde Schwab, chair and co-founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, and Brigitte Mohn, board member of Bertelsmann Stiftung, explain that over the past decade there has been a growth in research into social enterprises by many different organisations.

“Their insights reveal that social enterprises are a significant economic force driving positive outcomes worldwide,” they write.

“This report recognises the work of these institutions and aggregates their data to paint a global picture of social enterprise.”

However, Schwab and Mohn highlight the need for improved data going forward.

“The insights drawn from this are as important as the realisation that we need much stronger, more reliable and more frequent data if we are to support these innovators working to uncover societal and environmental solutions. The report highlights the power of such data and calls on governments, international organisations and the social enterprise ecosystem to invest in and coordinate for a strong data infrastructure at a global level.”


Social enterprise worldwide: the headline figures

  • There are 10m social enterprises worldwide, which is about 3% of all businesses
  • Social enterprises have a combined annual revenue of US$2tn, this is about 2% of global GDP
  • Social enterprises are creating 200m jobs
  • There is a financing need of US$1.1tn among social enterprises
  • 1 in 2 social enterprises is led by women (compared with 1 in 5 in conventional enterprises)
  • The sector is 2x larger than the US$875bn advertising industry

The figures above were released in January.


How many social entrepreneurs are there globally?

The researchers estimated the number of social entrepreneurs worldwide, pointing out that it’s not unexpected that this should be larger than the total number of social enterprises as many social entrepreneurs work with more than one enterprise, and that others operate in the informal economy.



Which countries have the most social enterprises?

Research in more than 80 countries has produced estimates of the overall number of social enterprises. 

  1. India: 2m
  2. China: 1.75m
  3. USA: 1.3m
  4. Pakistan: 450,000
  5. Nigeria: 440,000


Which countries have the most social enterprises per capita?

The estimate of the total number of social enterprises are correlated with the size of the national populations, so the researchers highlighted that it is also useful to examine the number of social enterprises per capita.

  1. USA: 38 
  2. Tunisia: 27
  3. South Africa: 24
  4. Nigeria: 20.3
  5. UK: 19.6

Figures are number of social enterprises per 10,000 people


Which countries have the largest social enterprises by turnover?

The average annual turnover globally using data from 41 countries was approximately US$0.5m, although average turnover was significantly lower in regions with lower levels of income. 

  1. Canada $2.59m
  2. Spain $1.57m
  3. Austria $1.33m
  4. Denmark $1.31m
  5. Australia $1.30m

Figures show average turnover of social enterprises in each country.


Which barriers do social enterprises most often face?

Social enterprises worldwide typically face the following barriers:

  • Limited access to finance.
  • Lack of public awareness and recognition.
  • Lack of government support.
  • Inadequate legal and/or fiscal framework.
  • Limited access to procurement processes.


The analysis was created by reviewing existing literature, data and research, including that carried out by the British Council under its now closed Global Social Enterprise Programme, the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society, USAID and the World Bank. Other organisations have been involved in the research, including Catalyst 2030, Euclid Network, Social Enterprise UK and the Social Enterprise World Forum. 

The researchers emphasise that collating better data about social enterprise worldwide will require more collaboration among social enterprise intermediaries, research institutions and governments, greater investment in data collection, and regional and global coordination of research initiatives.


Header photo: Eye Mitra provides eye care in India

Thanks for reading our stories. As an entrepreneur or investor yourself, you’ll know that producing quality work doesn’t come free. We rely on our subscribers to sustain our journalism – so if you think it’s worth having an independent, specialist media platform that covers social enterprise stories, please consider subscribing. You’ll also be buying social: Pioneers Post is a social enterprise itself, reinvesting all our profits into helping you do good business, better.

Latest article