A report by Forfás said the sector currently employs more than 25,000 people in 1,400 social enterprises in Ireland, with a combined total income of about €1.4bn (£910m). But it added there is potential to double employment in the sector over the period to 2020.
But the study said a coherent national policy across government is necessary if the sector is to achieve its potential. This has led to research and innovation minister Seán Sherlock being tasked with developing the sector on a cross-departmental basis.
"The social enterprise sector has played a key role in Irish society and in the economy for many years," said Sherlock.
"Social enterprises offer jobs across a range of skill-sets, and provide services and employment in many local and rural communities.
"That is why as part of the Action Plan for Jobs we have committed to supporting the development of a vibrant social enterprise sector.
"It has huge potential for employment growth and I am particularly pleased to have been asked by the Taoiseach to develop the sector further."
Insider News Ireland
Click here to view report here