What is a social enterprise?

WAAK maatwerkbedrijf Kuurne

Social enterprises employ people who have difficulties accessing the labour market due to a (physical, mental or combination of several factors) disability that makes it hard or impossible for them to find work there. Contrary to regular companies, the primary goal of a social enterprise is not to make a profit but to create sustainable and adapted employment. Regular companies look for suitable staff for specific vacancies whereas a social enterprise creates suitable work for its workforce.

WAAK - maatwerkbedrijf Kuurne
Different goals, similarities from an economic standpoint

This is the main difference between social enterprises and regular companies but from an economic standpoint they are very much alike. For instance, the continued existence of a social enterprise also depends on profit. It is a misconception that social enterprises are dependent on government subsidies. This is not the case - at least, not directly.

WAAK - maatwerkbedrijf Kuurne
Social enterprises and subsidies 

The Flemish public employment service (VDAB) determines how disabled an individual is. To make it more attractive for employers to hire these people, their loss of return is compensated by subsidies employers are entitled to when they hire them. Social enterprises are also entitled to these subsidies when they hire personnel with a disability. 

Goal social enterprises: Creating adapted work for people who have difficulties accessing the labour market

At WAAK, Flanders’ largest social enterprise, this financial compensation is used to adapt the work to the workforce. The emphasis is placed on technology and digitalisation in order to make the work easier and more manageable for our workers with a working disability. A good case in point is the weighing sofware WAAK developed to help its people count. The weighing software not only makes the work easier, it also guarantees a better end result. This way the end customer can rest assured that the quantities are correct and the work can be carried out by anyone, and therefore also by people with a working disability. The use of robots, co-bots and extensive automation not only delivers the highest possible quality for our customers, it also helps us create maximum employment for our target group. It’s a win-win situation all round.

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