Government urged to ‘close a significant gap’ in its understanding of charities' value to UK economy

The government is lagging behind dozens of countries in its understanding of the value and size of the UK’s charity sector, economists are warning.

Currently data on charities is spread across a range of different sectors and industries, making it impossible to “separately identify the true size of the social sector”, according to Pro Bono Economics.

It is proposing the UK adopt a similar method as 28 countries, including the US, France, Japan and Brazil and create a “social economy satellite” set of data.

This would bring together all data relating to the social sector under one roof in the UK for the first time and enable the Office of National Statistics to “properly determine the economic and employment contribution of the UK’s wide range of non-profit organisations and volunteering activities”.

Pro Bono Economics says that a further 10 other countries have committed to creating such a satellite account.

The move has the potential to significantly upgrade the official value of the sector, Pro Bono Economics suggests based on data from countries with such accounts.

These global figures suggest that the social sector contributes around 5% to their countries GDP on average, while the current UK approach estimates the sector is worth 1% of GDP.

Last December Pro Bono Economics suggested that the true value of charities to the UK economy could be a tenth of GDP.

“Establishing a dedicated social economy satellite account would be an important first step towards recognising the true size and economic contribution of the social economy in the UK,” said Pro Bono Economics research and policy director Anoushka Kenley.

With chronic undervaluation of the sector leading to consistent policy neglect, such a move is essential if the UK is to unleash the full potential of the social sector and so help support a full recovery from the pandemic.”

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