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News article12 June 2017European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

All about the European Social Fund (ESF)

From 2007-2014, almost 10 million Europeans found a job with support from the European Social Fund (ESF). As the Fund is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, we thought it would be a good time to delve deeper into how the ESF works.

All about the European Social Fund (ESF)

What is the ESF?

The ESF is one of the EU’s main employment-related funding instruments. Established in 1957 as part of the Treaty of Rome, the Fund has been working to improve job opportunities within the EU, promoting employment and boosting mobility for six decades.

What are the ESF’s main priorities?

The overarching priority for the ESF is to fund projects that help to address four major challenges: employment, social inclusion, education and public services.

Specific priorities include:

  • providing a better education for young people;
  • bridging the gap between school and work;
  • boosting the adaptability of workers;
  • improving access to employment;
  • helping young people to develop the skills that the job market is looking for;
  • promoting social inclusion for marginalised groups;
  • helping disadvantaged people to escape poverty through work;
  • improving public services.

How does the ESF work?

The ESF works in partnership with national and regional authorities in EU Member States, providing them with funding for their ESF programmes (officially known as Operational Programmes). This funding is then distributed through the programmes to projects within their country or region. The level of funding provided by the ESF is based on the relative wealth of the Member State.

What does the ESF support?

The ESF funds thousands of projects across Europe, ranging from small-scale initiatives that support people on a local level, to national schemes that target a wide cross-section of the country’s population. While they may range in size, subject and aims, people remain at the heart of each one.

The Fund also provides financial support for European Commission programmes such as the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee scheme, both of which are helping young people to develop their skills, gain experience and take their first steps into the job market.

How can you get involved?

If you’re an organisation looking for funding to launch an employment-related project, simply contact the ESF Managing Authority in your country or region for more information.

Young people interested in taking part in an ESF-funded project can also find out more by contacting their ESF Managing Authority, or by visiting national and regional ESF websites. Your local public employment service can also be a great source of information.

We recently took a closer look at the Youth Guarantee scheme and what it can offer young people, businesses and organisations, so why not find out more about it? Equally, our Erasmus+ article takes a look at one of the European Commission’s main programmes for education, culture, youth and sport.


Related links:

Treaty of Rome

Youth Employment Initiative

Youth Guarantee scheme

Contact the ESF Managing Authority in your country or region

Public employment service

Erasmus+ article


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