A new report for the European Commission assesses how the European Social Fund (ESF) has helped Member States deal with the crisis. The report shows that ESF Operational Programmes were responsive and benefited from simplifications put in place in 2009.
Despite difficult circumstances in which one might expect a switch to passive short-term actions, spending on active labour market policy measures actually increased during the crisis. The authors remark that this could well be due to the ESF which promotes active measures and contributes to longer-term structural changes in labour markets. The report makes a number of recommendations for the ESF, including: developing further the ability to react quickly when needed; phasing out crisis-related measures where they risk impeding active measures to combat long-term structural unemployment; and strengthening the ESF’s focus on structural measures and vulnerable groups.
The authors also recommend that as recovery from the crisis takes place the ESF should reinforce structural improvements to support employability and social inclusion. It should also focus more on anticipating change in line with the European Employment Strategy, for example, by improving lifelong-learning concepts and active labour market measures. A further suggestion is for better forecasting of future skills-needs and to look at evolving innovative forms of work that could be supported in future crisis situations.