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European Social Fund 2014–2020

The ESF is one of the five European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). From 2014, these operate under a common framework and pursue complementary policy objectives. They are the main source of investment at EU level to help Member States to restore and increase growth and ensure a job rich recovery while ensuring sustainable development, in line with the Europe 2020 objectives.

What are the main changes for the ESF?

From 2014, the role of the ESF will be reinforced:

  • A critical mass of human capital investment will be ensured through a minimum guaranteed share of the ESF within the cohesion policy funding in each Member State. Together with the 3 billion € special allocation for the Youth Employment Initiative, this means that more than 80 billion € will be invested in Europe's people over the next 7 years;
  • Allocating at least 20% of the Fund to social inclusion will mean that people in difficulties and those from disadvantaged groups will get more support to have the same opportunities as others to integrate into society;
  • Promoting equality between women and men and equal opportunities for all without any discrimination will be integrated in all actions and also supported through specific initiatives;
  • A greater emphasis is placed on combating youth unemployment. The Youth Employment Initiative will help young people not in employment, education or training in regions experiencing youth unemployment rates above 25%. At least €6.4 billion will come in support of Member States' efforts to put their Youth guarantee implementation plans in practice;
  • Concentrating funding for achieving results: the ESF will focus its interventions on a limited number of priorities in order to ensure a sufficiently high critical mass of funding to make a real impact in addressing Member States' key challenges.
  • Greater support will be provided to social innovation, i.e. testing and scaling up innovative solutions to address social, employment and education needs;
  • The ESF will be implemented in close cooperation between public authorities, social partners and bodies representing the civil society at national, regional and local levels throughout the whole programme cycle;
  • The European Social Fund will be at the forefront of innovative managing rules to simplify implementation of projects. The Commission is helping Member States to simplify ESF implementation in order to focus more on the results and make ESF easier and safer for the beneficiaries.

Which objectives for the ESF in 2014-2020?

Getting people into jobs: the ESF will support organisations around the EU to put in place projects aimed at training people and helping them get work. Initiatives supporting entrepreneurs with start-up funding and companies who need to cope with restructuring or a lack of qualified workers will also be funded. Helping young people enter the labour market will be a top priority for the ESF in all EU countries.
Social inclusion: employment is the most effective way of giving people independence, financial security and a sense of belonging. The ESF will continue to finance many thousands of projects that help people in difficulty and those from disadvantaged groups to get skills and jobs and have the same opportunities as others do.
Better education: Across the EU the ESF is financing initiatives to improve education and training and ensure young people complete their education and get the skills that make them more competitive on the job market. Reducing school drop-out is a priority here, along with improving vocational and tertiary education opportunities.
Stronger public administration: The ESF will support Member States' efforts to improve the quality of public administration and governance and so support their structural reforms by giving them the necessary administrative and institutional capacities.