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Frequently asked questions

What is the ESF?

The European Social Fund, ESF, was established in 1957 in the Treaty of Rome.

The ESF is one of the EU’s Structural Funds, and the main tool for creating more and better jobs in Europe.

During the 2007-2013 period, the ESF is investing approximately €75 billion across the European Union. This is supplemented by around €50 billion of national public funding. The Commission estimates that more than 70 million people will benefit from these measures

More info on the ESF

What is the total budget of the ESF?

The ESF budget for the 2007-2013 period amounts to some €75 billion, more than €10 billion per year. National public and private co-funding brings the total amount available for ESF-supported measures to more than €117 billion.

For more information on the ESF budget, check the ESF spending section.

In what areas is the ESF active?

The ESF supports measures such as:

  • lifelong learning and training of workers;
  • work organisation;
  • support for employees in the context of restructuring;
  • employment services
  • integration of disadvantaged people in the labour market
  • reforms in education and training systems;
  • networking of social partners and NGOs
  • training in public administrations and services

To learn more about ESF priorities search the priorities database.

How do I find documentation on the ESF?

The library section of this website includes PDF versions of all our publications.

What kind of activities does the ESF co-finance?

The ESF co-finances projects in a wide variety of areas related to improving employment opportunities and social inclusion, depending on the priorities set by the Member States.

On the activities pages you can see an overview of the areas funded.

See the project examples to learn more about concrete projects supported by the ESF.

Who can receive financial support from the ESF?

Commercial businesses, public agencies and non-profit organisations may all apply. It is not possible to apply as an individual; only organisations or companies can submit an application. Read about how to participate here.

The ESF is managed at national and/or regional level: to find out how to benefit from ESF support, please contact the ESF managing authority in your country or region. Contact details are given in the section “support in your country”.

A list of ESF beneficiaries is published by each Member State.

What is a Managing Authority?

ESF Managing authorities have national and regional offices. They disseminate information about the ESF, receive and assess applications. They are also responsible for distribution of the funding and the monitoring of approved projects.

Can a project cooperate with other Member States?

The ESF supports projects that cooperate with projects or organisations in other EU member states.

Check our Fields of activity section for more information on Transnationality

Search the project database to learn more about cross-border projects supported by the ESF.

What is a Monitoring Committee?

Monitoring committees oversee the implementation of ESF programmes. They consist of representatives from public authorities, social partners, NGOs, the education system and the Commission.

How do I get funding?

The ESF is managed at national and/or regional level: to find out how to benefit from ESF support please contact the responsible ESF managing authority in your country or region.

Contact details can be found in the Member States section of this website.

Does the ESF provide financial support to students?

An ESF Operational Programme which has education as a priority can finance student grants.

Search the priorities database for more information on promoting education with ESF support.

Please also check the website of the Erasmus programme, which helps students to study and work abroad each year: http://ec.europa.eu/education

One of our employees will participate in a training. Which support can we – as employer - receive from the ESF and under which conditions?

In principle the ESF can support the training of employees. The ESF however is managed at national and/or regional level: to find out whether you are eligible for ESF support in your country please contact the responsible ESF managing authority whose contact details can be found in the Member States section of this website.

We want to set up a training centre. Can the ESF help us?

In principle, the ESF can support training centres.

However, the ESF is managed at national and/or regional level: to find out whether you are eligible for ESF support in your country please contact the responsible ESF managing authority. Contact details can be found in the section “support in your country”.

Can the ESF support a project in Africa?

The ESF provides support within the EU.

For external assistance please check the website of EuropeAid.

Our organisation is co-financed by the ESF. Which logo can we use for our documentation?

There is no specific ESF logo. The ‘Implementing Regulation’ states that:

"All information and publicity measures aimed at beneficiaries, potential beneficiaries and the public shall include the following:

(a) the emblem of the European Union <…>  and reference to the European Union;
(b) reference to the Fund concerned: <…> for the ESF: "European Social Fund”;
(c) a statement chosen by the managing authority, highlighting the added value of the intervention of the Community, and preferably “Investing in your future”.

For small promotional objects, points (b) and (c) shall not apply."

Please refer also to the Guidelines for beneficiaries and other third parties on the use of the EU emblem in the context of EU programmes.

Did I really “win the ESF lottery”?

The Commission is aware of a series of fraudulent e-mails sent in the name of the ESF. The messages announce a ‘win’ of an important sum of money and request a return e-mail with contact information.

Please note that these e-mails are not sent by the Commission or with its permission. We advise you not to answer these messages. Should you wish to contact the Commission regarding ESF-related issues, please use our contact form.