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European Social Fund

March 20, 2018

The European Social Fund (ESF) supports labour-market and employment policies in EU Member States. The current seven-year funding period for the ESF started at the beginning of 2014.

Logo of the European Social Fund (ESF)

The European Social Fund (ESF) supports labour-market and employment policies in EU Member States. The current seven-year funding period for the ESF started at the beginning of 2014.

Who can receive support through the ESF?

The ESF helps people in Germany and in Europe improve their education and skills to increase their employment opportunities. The aim is to ensure that all people have job prospects. The ESF is Europe's most important instrument for promoting employment and social inclusion. This especially benefits the unemployed, those moving from school to training and work, employees and those who start companies.

The ESF attaches particular importance to the equal treatment of men and women and the prevention of all forms of discrimination. The ESF is thus particularly concerned with those at risk of being excluded from the labour market, such as disadvantaged young people, the long-term unemployed and migrants.

However, the ESF is not an employment agency. Rather, it promotes practice-oriented employment projects implemented at the municipal, regional and national level that have an impact directly where they are implemented. Individual support is provided only through the variousESF funding programs, namely through the selected projects or responsible institutions in the respective programmes.

What activities are supported by the ESF?

The ESF helps people in the following ways:

  • support with the transition from school to training or work
  • improvement of skills,
  • career development and
  • promotion of entrepreneurship.

The current ESF funding period 2014-2020 focusses on the following:

  • sustainable integration of long-term unemployed into jobs subject to social security contributions,
  • support for job-related language training,
  • helping people with a migrant background acquire qualifications that lead to labour market integration that is in line with those qualifications,
  • measures related to the skills shortage and demographic change and
  • helping disadvantaged young people and young adults obtain general education school-leaving qualifications and helping them transition to or integrate into training or work.

The goals of the ESF

In order to achieve the goals, each Member State and each region develops its own strategy for each funding period within the framework of an operational programme (OP) that must be approved by the EU Commission. In Germany, both the Federal Government and the Länder submit an OP to the European Commission.

The Federal OP has the following objectives:

  • Raise the employment rate, particularly among women
  • Increase participation in continuing education and training
  • Lower the long-term unemployment rate
  • Improve the prospects of the younger generation

The allocation of ESF resources

In Germany, the Federation and the Länder are to receive a total of around 7.5 billion euros from the ESF between 2014 and 2020. Nearly 36 % of the ESF funds for Germany go to the Federal ESF programme. Some 64 % go to the 16 Länder programmes. However, the ESF funds are available only on the condition that the Member States themselves bear part of the costs of the funded projects (co-financing).

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) is responsible for coordinating the Federal ESF support programmes and it implements them together with five other federal ministries:

  • The Federal Ministry of Education and Research,
  • The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth,
  • The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy,
  • The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community,
  • The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Information regarding current funding programs 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.