The European Parliament gave the final approval for the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) Regulation, worth €99.3 billion (in current prices), at its plenary session on Tuesday, 8 June 2021.
For the period 2021-2027, the ESF+ is one of the main funding instruments to invest in people and to help Member States achieve the targets set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.
Under the new ESF+, all EU countries will invest at least 25% of their ESF+ resources in social inclusion and at least 3% to address material deprivation. EU countries above the EU average rate (2017-2019) of young people not in employment, education or training should devote at least 12.5% of their ESF+ resources to support youth employment.
Countries where children’s risk of poverty or social exclusion is above the EU average (2017-2019) should use at least 5% of their ESF+ resources to tackle this issue. All other EU countries must programme an appropriate amount to support youth employment and tackle child poverty. This will also help to implement the reinforced Youth Guarantee and the Child Guarantee.
The ESF+ Regulation is expected to enter into force on 1 July 2021. It merges the current European Social Fund (ESF) and 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).
The European Social Fund 2014-2020 has proved to be a crucial tool to promote employment, education and inclusion. Since 2014, the ESF has supported over 33.4 million people across the Union. The Fund has also helped to cushion the blow of the pandemic by providing much-needed funding for short-time work schemes, youth employment measures, training and more.
EU countries could flexibly reallocate cohesion funding to where they needed it most under CRII and CRII+ . Under REACT-EU, the ESF is expected to receive a top-up of around €17.5 billion, of which €1.2 billion have already been approved.