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The new "Annual Economic Survey of Employee Share Ownership in European Countries" is just released
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  IN 2021

New progression for employee shareholders in Europe last year, with a capitalization held of 433 billion Euro in shares in their companies, a new record figure. Happy news for all those who can benefit from employee share plans.

The development of employee share ownership has continued in large European companies in 2021. More and more of them are organizing employee share plans. In 2021, 88% of all large European companies had employee share plans of all kinds, while 53% had "broad-based" plans for all employees, and 60% had stock option plans. Finally, 32% of all large European companies launched new employee share plans, a proportion that tends to increase from year to year.

However employee share ownership is in danger within Europe. It is becoming less and less democratic.

The number of employee shareholders decreased last year and it is lower than it was ten years before; 7 million employee shareholders are now recorded in large companies; if we add one million in SMEs, the total number in Europe reaches 8 million (Graph 1). The fall in the democratization rate of employee share ownership has been dramatic over the last ten years. And the employees' stake in the ownership structure of large European companies is decreasing for five years now.

In addition, a shift has occurred between the share held by top executive officers and that of ordinary employees, that of democratic employee share ownership. For the first time in European listed companies, the share held by top executives exceeds that of ordinary employees (Graph 2). In fact, as recently as 15 years ago, the top executives as a whole held 1.06% compared to 1.45% for ordinary employees; today it is 1.53% for the top executives compared to 1.48% for the others.

A group of 10,000 top executive officers (on average four in each company) now owns more than the 34 million employees of large European companies. That’s more than 20 million Euros on average for each top executive, and 30,000 for each ordinary employee shareholder.

It should also be noted that the share held by ordinary employees is back to the same level as fifteen years ago. This observation sanctions Europe's failure to promote a democratic employee share ownership policy. Promoting democratic employee ownership is indeed a political choice, usually supported by fiscal incentives. Without support, the average employee cannot afford to invest financially in his or her company. Few European countries do this effectively.

On the contrary, we observe that the top executives have not lacked the resources to do so. Have public policies to support employee share ownership, where they exist, been poorly calibrated and misused by top executives? We can see that this is not the case; in fact, the share of the 1.53% resulting from the exercise of stock options and other plans is microscopic, representing only 0.05%.

However, where, in which countries has the share of top executives multiplied the most over the last fifteen years, and where has it been contained? The share of top executives increased the most in countries where democratic share plans are most absent. Where has the share of top executives been contained? Where democratic employee ownership is most significant. This is particularly the case in France, the country with the highest share of ordinary employees in Europe (3.50%), and the rare country where the share of top executives has not soared, since it is now at the same level as fifteen years ago (1.05%).

The facts are plain to see: Democratic employee ownership is a guarantee of balance. Its absence or weakness opens the door to the soaring share held by top executives.

Press review
We have a selection of 27 remarkable articles in 10 countries in March 2022: Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, UK, USA.
Australia: A new era for employee ownership of Australian startups.
Canada: Canada needs policies that make it easier for business owners to sell to their employees.
France: Protests at Thales. New employee share plan for Pernod Ricard. The Congress of workers' cooperatives.
Germany: Employee share ownership works!
Ireland: JP Moragn acquires Global Shares.
Italy: Birth of the Observatory of Workers' Buyouts.
Norway: Too few employees hold shares in their company.
Spain: Telefónica and Mapfre have launched share distribution plans for their employees.
UK: Every day a new SME is transferred to employees, as for instance this month: Craggs Energy, Pro-Networks, Alan Steel, Kilmac, British Rema, Esteem Training, Caley Timber. The rise of employee-owned contractors.
USA: New business transmissions through ESOPs.

The full press review is available on:


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   With best regards



Marc Mathieu
Secretary General
Avenue Voltaire 135, B-1030 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 242 64 30 - Fax: +32 (0)2 791 96 00
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EFES' objective is to act as the umbrella organization of employee owners, companies and all persons, trade unions, experts, researchers, institutions looking to promote employee share ownership and participation in Europe.