After deliberations during two meetings consecrated for this subject (November 6, 1958, and February 9, 1959), the Constituent Assembly which was the first Parliament of Tunisia, newly independent adopted an article of the draft of the Constitution, in the course of discussions, reserved for the Economic and Social Council.
At the promulgation of the Constitution, on June 1, 1959, the article consecrated to the Economic and Social Council, was numbered 59, becoming number 70 thereafter after the amendment of the constitution by the constitutional law n° 76-37 dated 8 April 1976. The aforementioned article stipulates that "the Economic and Social Council is a consultative body in economic and social matter. Its composition and its relations with the Chamber of Deputies are fixed by the law ".
Nearly twenty months after the promulgation of the Constitution, the Economic and Social Council was established by the decree-law n° 61-23 dated 28 June 1961.
1961 : The composition of the Council gathered 30 members, representing the organizations of employees, industrial and commercial enterprises and experts. These members are appointed by decree for a five-year duration.Concerning the attributions, they consisted in the examination, for opinion, of the draft laws transmitted by the government or the Chamber of Deputies (National Assembly at the time), the general Plan of development as well as the evolution of the economic situation. The Council had in addition the latitude to seize by itself the examination of issues of economic and social nature, except however, the constitutional laws, the finance laws, the drafts of decrees and conventions.
1965 : Following the introduction of Destourien socialism, the law n° 65-9 dated 9 April 1965 was limited to amend article 4 of the decree-law n° 61-1 dated 16 January 1961, increasing the number of the Council members from 30 to 37, while proceeding to a revision of the representativeness and this, by including representatives of the cooperatives and regional companies of trade.
1970 : Following the revision of the economic policy and the stopping of the experiment of the cooperatives, the law n° 70-7 dated 10 March 1970 was promulgated. It increased the number of the Council members to 42 while replacing the representatives of the sector of the cooperation by those of the sectors of industry, agriculture and services, comprising the trade and including, for the first time, the representatives of the consumers and youth.
1983 : Within the framework of the contractual policy, henceforth followed by the government, the law n° 83-50 dated 10 June 1983 replaced the law of 1970 mentioned above. It changed the number of the members of the Council to 68 and this, by increasing the number of the qualified persons (which become from 6 to 20, and of the representatives of associations) and by adding representatives of the Administration.
In addition to its attributions provided for by the old texts, the Economic and Social Council could henceforth, be seized by the government on the issues which are the subject of the permanent dialogue between the latter and the social partners.
1988 : The most significant review was concretized by the promulgated organic law n°88-12 dated 7 March 1988. It allowed to entirely reorganize the Council by reinforcing its role and while proceeding to a remodeling of its composition which went from 68 to 117 members. Those represent the acting forces of the Nation and the various components of its civil society. The regional dimension introduced in the aforesaid composition constitutes a unique case which may be claimed by the Tunisian Council.
Attributions were also widened. The work means were reinforced. Consequently a new headquarters was attributed to the Council with appropriate premises. A budget was allocated to it, not to mention the equipment and the setting up of administrative structures necessary for it, the number of the permanent commissions went from 2 to 5 creating a new dynamics whose importance increased day by day. By testifying the encouraging appreciations reiterated by the legislative and executive powers, on the contents and the range of the opinions and reports of the Council.
It shall be noted that at the time of the 40th anniversary of the Council (1961-2001), and in concretization of the presidential initiatives aiming at more impelling its action and at reinforcing its radiance, an action program was elaborated. It is articulated on the principal following axes:
The plenary meeting, which includes all 117 members of the Economic and Social Council, is charged to examine the reports established by the Commissions, or draft opinions of CES on the draft laws, which become opinions after their adoption.
According to the organic law of CES, these opinions are transmitted to the President of the Republic, to the Prime Minister, to the President of the Chamber of Deputies and to the President of the Chamber of Advisors.
The Council has a permanent administration, provided for by decree n° 2006-546 dated 1 March 2006, relating to the organization and operation of CES The Council departments are composed of: