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News | 2021-07-01

Towards a more social and inclusive Europe 2021-2027: the new European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) enters into force today

flags flying in front of berlaymont building

The European Social Fund (ESF) has been a bulwark of support to people across the EU, investing in the social future of European citizens for over six decades.  he new European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) will remain the main EU instrument for investing in people – tackling the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting high employment levels, building social protection and developing a skilled and resilient workforce ready for the transition to a green and digital economy.

Coming into force 1 July 2021, the ESF+ Regulation will support the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, jointly proclaimed by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission as  the EU’s compass for responding to social challenges in Europe. 

Through supporting actions in the areas of employment, education & skills and social inclusion, the ESF+ will support individuals, regions and Member States to face distinct challenges - from recovering from the current pandemic to meeting the EU’s targets for employment, social inclusion, education and climate.  

The ESF+ integrates the former European Social Fund (ESF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), allowing funding to be used in as efficient and coherent manner as possible. 

With a budget of over €99 billion (current prices) for the 2021-2027 period, the ESF+ will invest in the following priority areas:

  • Supporting young people who have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis - ESF+ resources will help these young people find a qualification, a good quality job, and improve their education and training
  • Helping children in need by allocating ESF+ resources to targeted actions to combat child poverty, and supporting the most vulnerable in society suffering from job losses and income reductions, including providing food and basic material assistance to the most deprived 
  • Reskilling and upskilling people for the transition to a green and digital economy.
  • Capacity building for social partners and civil society organisations.
  • Transnational cooperation for promoting social innovation across the EU.
  • Direct support to social innovation through the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) strand.

How the ESF+ will be managed

The majority of funding under the ESF+ (€98.5 billion)  will be allocated under shared management with the Member States. This means that the ESF+ Managing Authorities in each country will dedicate the money to projects that are run by a range of public and private organisations, thereby responding to the country- and region-specific needs.      

In addition to the shared management strand of the fund, the European Commission directly manages a smaller share (€762 million) of the ESF+ under the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Strand. This side of the fund will support analytical activities, capacity building and transnational/cross-border cooperation to strengthen social protection and social inclusion, fair working conditions, equal access to the labour market, social entrepreneurship and labour mobility.

For More information

Commission welcomes political agreement on the ESF+

European Pillar for Social Rights

Recovery plan and multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027

Regulation (EU) 2021/1057 establishing the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)