Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

European Social Fund (ESF)

Investing in people

The ESF is Europe’s main tool for promoting employment and social inclusion – helping people get a job (or a better job), integrating disadvantaged people into society and ensuring fairer life opportunities for all.

It does this by investing in Europe’s people and their skills – employed and jobless, young and old.

Every year, the Fund helps some 10 million people into work, or to improve their skills to find work in future.

This is important:

  • in the short term – to mitigate the consequences of the current economic crisis, especially the rise in unemployment and poverty levels;
  • in the longer term – as part of Europe’s strategy to remodel its economy, creating not just jobs, but an inclusive society.

For sixty years now, the European Commission has been working in partnership with the Member States to give people the opportunity to improve their job prospects. Throughout 2017, the 60th anniversary of the ESF is commemorated in many regional and national events.

Funding & objectives in 2014-20

In this period, the ESF will provide some €80 billion (in current prices) in funding to:

More on ESF objectives for 2014-20

Who does what?

The ESF strategy and budget are negotiated and decided on jointly by EU governments, the European Parliament and the Commission.

Its 7-year operational programmes are planned by governments and approved by the European Commission.

Funding is given to a wide range of organisations – public bodies, private companies and civil society – which give people practical help to find a job, or stay in their job.

More about the ESF

ESF monitoring and evaluation

The Commission and Member States share the responsibility to evaluate the activities of ESF. Managing Authorities perform evaluations at the Member State level, while the Commission does so at the EU level.

The following evaluation processes are ongoing:

Evaluations rely on consistent, comparable and good quality data collected by the national authorities. The data are also used to monitor if the programmes are on track as planned. The Commission’s guidance on monitoring and evaluation supports the Managing Authorities in their tasks.

The Open Data Platform provides data visualisation on financing and achievements under the ESF 2014-2020, with information on progress in delivering investments at the EU level. The Commission’s annual Summary/Strategic Reports provide information on EU level achievements.

Counterfactual impact evaluations (CIEs) of ESF-funded operations have been carried out under the Data Fitness Initiative. They are part of a broader EU commitment to focus on results and evidence-based policy making.

  • A practical guidance material and a series of video-tutorials aid Managing Authorities on conducting and commissioning reliable CIEs.
  • ESF Managing Authorities can receive customised advice on CIEs through the Quality Assurance Support.  
  • Managing Authorities and CIE experts share their experience and knowledge through regular community of practice meetings.

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