Images and concepts of the Third Sector in Europe
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In European economies, the importance of a « third sector », distinct from the private for-profit and public sectors, is increasingly being acknowledged, from various points of view.
First, it clearly appears that beyond the diversity of conceptions and labels used to identify such third sector, the latter has gained economic significance in terms of employment and production. This growth is especially apparent in services provision. Because of differences in border definition, there are no universally accepted measures of the sector’s economic weight. But although its importance remains modest in some countries (in particular in the new EU member states), it represents, according to some figures, more than 10 per cent of total employment in countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.
It also appears that public authorities have paid greater attention, in recent decades, to third sector organizations (TSOs); the latter have increasingly been recognized as partners for the implementation of public policies. Although such an acknowledgement may sometimes remain purely instrumental or focus only on particular fields, numerous public initiatives have been undertaken to increase the role of TSOs in areas of public interest.
In academic spheres as well, the third sector has benefited from an increasing interest.
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