Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Alexandra LACROIX | Credit: European Commission


Getting Europe Back on Track: The European Social Fund

The European Social Fund and entrepreneurship:  a fruitful mix to foster growth in Europe.

Are you a young graduate wanting to gain experience abroad? A recent immigrant seeking advice to start a company? Or a group of scientists willing to transform your latest invention into a business?

If yes, then you should check out the various funding opportunities provided by the European Social Fund (ESF). If not, you should still have a look as the range of projects is very large.

The ESF is one of the oldest structural funds of the European Union, created with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Although its main objectives have changed over the years – from facilitating the migration of workers to fighting young unemployment* – the ESF’s first struggle has always been to create employment and increase growth potential in Europe.

The top concern of all EU citizens is employment. The European Social Fund is the EU tool enabling them to start work, return to work, and stay in work. If we are to help Europe out of its political, economic and social problems, we must promote labour market integration projects supported by the ESF“, said Parliament’s rapporteur on the European Social Fund, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP, FR).

With a budget of 10 billion Euros a year, the fund invests in Europe’s main resource: its human capital. In particular, it targets disadvantaged groups such as women, young people, ethnic minorities or recent New Europeans with poor language skills.

But the ESF is not another Euractiv or Eurobrussels platform, advertising for jobs. It funds thousands of employment-related projects at the local, regional or national level throughout Europe. For example, in 2012, more than 1,600 000 people in Spain participated in a ESF project.

How to proceed? If you are an organisation with a potential ESF project or an individual willing to participate in a project, you should not contact Brussels but rather the relevant ESF contacts in your country (cf. the “Support in your country” section of the ESF website).

Many of the projects promote entrepreneurship through business and financial support services.  Here are examples of past projects that should give you a better idea of what to expect from the ESF (source:

  •  “New Skills Update” (Austria: Feb. 2013 – Sept.2014):

Companies in Salzburg, Austria are taking part in a project which assesses their future skills needs and then creates training plans that will help them stay competitive in the marketplace. ESF Contribution: EUR 184 000 – Number of Participants: 200 companies

  • “A Winning Chance” (2010 –2013):

With the help of the ESF, ‘Entrepreneurship in Denmark’ seeks to help non-ethnic Danes realise their full potential by offering free counselling when they are setting up a business in Denmark. Participants: 1600 unique contacts to entrepreneurs until July 2011 – ESF contribution: €1 073 826

  • “Intercultural transition management” (Germany: 2009-2012):

In Germany, the programme “Intercultural transition management” appointed job coaches to help young people with and without migration background in grades 8 to 10 through individual career support. Participants: 4 106 – ESF contribution: € 433 808

Convinced? Then start working on a project and submit it to your ESF contact!

*For the coming period, twenty percent of European Social Fund (ESF) money will be used to combat poverty through labour market integration and at least €3 billion in ESF funding will be used to combat youth unemployment.

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