The notion of third sector is little discussed in France compared to other national contexts. The most commonly used concept is the one of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), which, however, includes most entities described as in-scope by TSIs definition of the third sector. SSE accounts for more than 10% of the total employment in the French economy with 2,3 millions of paid workers.

SSE is the first employer in the social sector (62% of employment of this sector) and in sport and leisure activities (55% of employment of this sector). It is the second employer in financial and insurance activities (30% of employment of this sector). SSE is also an important employer in performing arts (27% of employment of this sector) and in education (19% of employment of this sector). It has shown more resilience than the private sector during the recent economic crisis.

In 2013, 11 million people or 22% of the population aged from 16 or more, declared to have worked as a volunteer. One area for improvement is the job quality within the sector. Lower income than in comparable jobs in public or private sectors, short-term contracts and other non-standard or “atypical” contracts remain dominant. Job satisfaction, on the other hand, is generally higher.

Main barriers for TSOs in the fields of social services, art and culture and sports can be summarized as follows:

  • Social services TSO’s have to deal with a more competitive environment, with more performance pressures, and with less public financial resources. There is high pressure to scale up and build new alliances in order to reduce costs, as well to diversify resources to reduce reliance on public funding. Within this context, TSO’s need to adapt their governance structure towards a more competence oriented one and to professionalize both paid workers and volunteers. The challenge is to implement profound organizational changes without loosing their special associative characteristics.
  • Cultural TSOs need to foster governance as a collective project and to improve job quality, professionalization and human resources management. One major particular issue for cultural TSO’s is to strengthen the relationships with other fields of the third sector in order to reinforce their advocacy and lobbying capacity.
  • Sport associations are facing particular challenges in relation to governance and human resources management. Managing sport associations is rather complex given the administrative and legal complexity of this field and given the presence of both paid and volunteering work. Their heavy dependency on public policies and funds can jeopardize their future development in the context of public expenditures reduction. They will have to pool and share resources.

The report finishes with several policy recommendations:

  1. To improve the visibility of third sector organizations and in particular, to give more value and recognition to their impact in terms of employment, social inclusion, social and territorial cohesion and economic development;
  2. To simplify administrative processes, since TSO’s are under pressure to become more entrepreneurial and to increase their managerial performance while being faced with an increasing administrative and reporting burden in the search for accountability and transparency;
  3. To help TSOs survive the marketization pressure there should be training and consultations how to adapt to such pressures without loosing the special contribution they make in terms of social inclusion, participation, advocacy and health.

For more detailed policy recommendations refer to the TSI Barriers France Policy Brief.