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European Social Fund

March 5, 2013

The European Union has promoted employment and labour policies in the Member States through the European Social Fund (ESF) for more than 55 years now.

Logo of the European Social Fund (ESF)

The ESF helps people in Germany and Europe raise their level of education, improve their qualifications and, in the process, increase their occupational opportunities. This particularly benefits unemployed persons, individuals undergoing vocational training, workers and business start-ups. For this reason, the ESF is Europe's most important EU instrument for fostering employment. The European Social Fund helps achieve the aims of the European Union. As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, more and better jobs are to be created throughout the EU with the help of the European Employment Strategy.

What challenges will arise for us?

The current demographic trend will have noticeable consequences ‒ and serious repercussions for the labour market. In the next ten years, Germany will experience a shortage of up to five million workers. Furthermore, in the wake of technological advances and the internationalisation of the working world, the demands being placed on workers' training and qualifications will continue growing.

What activities does the ESF support?

The ESF helps people by

  • making training and re-training available,
  • improving qualifications,
  • supporting career development and
  • fostering entrepreneurship.

The ESF attaches particular importance to the equal treatment of men and women and to the avoidance of any form of discrimination. The ESF consequently pays special attention to those who are at risk of being excluded from the labour market, such as single parents, persons with a disability, migrants and minorities.

What are ESF funds used for?

In Germany, the federal government and state governments receive a total of € 9.38 billion from the ESF between 2007 and 2013.

Nearly 40 per cent of the ESF funds for Germany go to the German government's ESF Programme. Some 60 per cent go to the 17 state ESF programmes. However, the ESF makes funding available only when the Member States themselves bear part of the costs of the funded projects (co-financing). As a consequence of this requirement, a total of nearly €16 billion will additionally be made available in the coming seven years for workers, job seekers and businesses in Germany as a result of the ESF.

The German government has developed its own programme – the Operational Programme of the Federal Government for the European Social Fund (OP) – for achieving these objectives. Germany's states put their ESF funds to use in their own individual funding programmes.

The German government's ESF programme pursues the following objectives:

  1. Raise employment rates, particularly among women.
  2. Increase participation in continuing education and training.
  3. Lower the long-term unemployment rate.
  4. Improve the prospects of the younger generation.

What federal ESF programmes are there?

The ESF is not a placement agency. Rather, it funds employment projects at local, regional and national level. Funding for individual persons is provided only through the various federal-level ESF programmes which are carried out by project sponsors and institutions that are responsible for the projects.

The German government's ESP programmes are overseen by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and executed by four other federal ministries: the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, and the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development.

Information regarding current funding programmes is available here.

ESF pro­gramme brochure: The Eu­ro­pean So­cial Fund - Fund­ing pe­ri­od 2014-2020

This brochure is intended for all those who want to actively shape work in Germany - in politics, economy and society. But also to for all those who want to know how the ESF helps people to start tackling their own future.

The Eu­ro­pean So­cial Fund in Ger­many 2014-2020

The Flyer gives an overview of the functioning and role of the European Social Fund in Germany.