On 18 November 2014, the Commission adopted the Partnership Agreement with Ireland, paving the way for more than €500 million (current prices) in European Social Fund (ESF) funding in the next seven years.
The EU investments will help tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in cities, towns and rural areas. They will also promote entrepreneurship, fight social exclusion and help to develop an environmentally friendly and resource-efficient economy.
Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility will be a top priority in Ireland. Long-term unemployment levels need to be tackled and reduced and the employment rate of women increased. ESF support will focus on improving the skills base of the unemployed, long-term unemployed and economically inactive.
A strong emphasis is also placed on combating youth unemployment by ensuring that young people get the right skills that make them more successful on the jobs market. Investments in these areas will be instrumental in helping Ireland to respond to the Europe 2020 priorities and country specific recommendations.
Nearly 32% of the ESF allocation will be available for actions aimed towards promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and all kinds of discrimination. These will complement national policies, including the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work.
Other ESF-supported investments will improve the quality and efficiency of, and access to, tertiary and equivalent education with a view to increasing participation and attainment levels, especially for disadvantaged groups. Another goal is to enhance equal access to lifelong learning for all age groups in formal, non-formal and informal settings, to upgrade the knowledge, skills and competences of the workforce, and promote flexible learning pathways including through career guidance and validation of acquired competences.
The ESF share of the Structural Funds budget is 57% or € 542.4 million and is above the required minimum share of 51.7%. The funds will be allocated to these priorities:
|Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility||€ 230 930 203|
|Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination||€ 193 807 784|
|Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning||€ 107 698 574|
|Technical assistance||€ 10 000 000|
|Total||€ 542 436 561|
In addition, Ireland benefits from an allocation of € 68.1 million for the Youth Employment Initiative. This new instrument is dedicated to confront the high youth unemployment rates across Europe.
The Commission and Ireland are currently negotiating the ESF Operational Programme (OP). This will be breaking down the objectives of the Partnership Agreement into investment priorities and concrete actions and will allow selecting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the individual projects according to the priorities and targets agreed with the Commission.