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Social enterprise: untapped potential in creating jobs

A new report released today by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne in partnership with Westpac Foundation shows that employment-focused social enterprises are playing a critical role in improving the lives of disadvantaged Australians by offering a people-centred approach to employment support services.

Currently in Australia, the demand for work among vulnerable groups is growing and is disproportionate to the general population, with close to two million Australians wanting more work opportunitiesi. Underemployment rates are high among women and younger Australians; and people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, refugees and people seeking asylum are also less likely to be employed than the wider populationii,iii,iv,v,vi.

The evidence-based report, Social Enterprise: A people-centred approach to employment services (PDF 1MB), looks at how and why social enterprise is proving more effective than mainstream employment solutions in delivering greater employment outcomes for people with complex needs.

Centre for Social Impact National Research Director, Jo Barraket, said, “The research indicates the important role that employment-focused social enterprises are playing in creating a more inclusive economy, and their unique contributions to Australia’s employment services system, particularly in support of people who experience multiple barriers to participation.”

“We were pleased to work with Westpac Foundation on synthesising the available evidence and identifying where we need to develop further knowledge to support social enterprises to scale their impacts,” Barraket said.

For over a decade, Westpac Foundation has been working with social enterprise to help vulnerable Australians. Following the announcement of its 2030 strategy in late 2018, the Foundation commissioned the Centre for Social Impact to undertake research to identify additional insights that would help them achieve their 2030 goal to help create 10,000 new jobs for people who face barriers to mainstream employment.

Westpac Foundation CEO, Susan Bannigan, said, “The ripple effect of a job is powerful. When people work, we leverage all of the talent available to our country. The individual has a sense of belonging and purpose, families and communities are stronger, and so is society.”

“This evidence-based report helps us identify where the gaps are, and what is needed to help employment-focused social enterprises continue to create long-term sustainable change,” Bannigan said.

The findings of the report (PDF 1MB) were presented at CSI Swinburne’s Social Enterprise Evidence Forum in Melbourne on August 1, 2019.


What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are businesses that exist primarily to fulfil a social or environmental purpose. There are an estimated 20,000 social enterprises in Australia.

An employment-focused social enterprise focuses on creating meaningful employment for disadvantaged Australians. Nearly 7,000 of all social enterprises in Australia have employment-based support or employment creation as their main focus.

i Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018)
ii Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15 (Canberra: ABS, 2016), Table 11.1.
iii ABS. Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 (Canberra: ABS, 2016), Table 9.1.
iv Commonwealth of Australia. No one teaches you to become an Australian (Canberra: 2017), Section 4,
v ABS. Labour Force, Table 1, seasonally adjusted data.