The mutualist economy: what future in the Single Market?

Mutuals play a major role in Europe, by providing health, social and insurance services to a large proportion of European citizens. Yet, due to their specificities, they are confronted with certain difficulties linked to the functioning of the Single Market, the globalisation of the economy and the ageing of the population. This Policy Brief by Marie-José Fleury gives an overview of the current challenges to which mutuals are confronted and evokes its development perspectives in Europe.

Mutuals play a major role in the European economy. They employ roughly 350.000 people, provide social services and health care to 230 million European citizens and represent more than 180 billion euros in insurance premium. Yet, these figures hide different realities from one country to another: thus, in certain European countries mutuals are widespread and play a major role in the economy – notably in the sectors of insurance and health services – in other EU countries mutuals do not exist and their status is not recognized.
European mutuals are faced with specific challenges. The diversity of legal arrangements for mutuals existing in Member States makes the cross-border development of their activities more difficult. In addition to that, European legislation tends to ignore the specific nature of mutuals and impose on them undifferentiated rules, almost exclusively based on those corresponding to other types of companies. Moreover the ageing of the population is a particular challenge for the mutual sector, given that it has a vocation built on solidarity and equal treatment between policy holders and members.Lastly, whether at a European or national level, mutual societies are faced with a major challenge, that of promoting the specific characteristics of their entrepreneurial approach.
This Policy Brief by Marie-José Fleury invites the reader to reflect on the future of the mutual economy in Europe. After an overview of the mutualist sector in Europe, it describes the main challenges to which the mutualist sector is confronted and evokes the perspectives of this sector in Europe.