European Social Fund: fighting poverty and unemployment

The improved European Social Fund+ programme focuses on fighting child poverty and youth unemployment in Europe. Learn more by watching our video.

The European Social Fund+ aims to invest in people and create a more social and inclusive Europe

On 8 June 2021, the European Parliament adopted new rules to tackle unemployment and poverty in the EU in the wake of the pandemic crisis. The renewed and simplified European Social Fund, known as the European Social Fund+, will focus on children and youth.

With a budget of €88 billion for 2021-2027, the fund will help EU countries provide access to free education, decent food and housing for children. It will also support investments in apprenticeships and vocational training for unemployed young people.

Many people are concerned about social and employment issues. The fund will promote social inclusion for those suffering job losses and income reduction and will provide food and basic assistance to the most deprived.

What is the European Social Fund?

  • It is the EU's oldest financial instrument to invest in people, improve job opportunities for workers and raise their standard of living
  • Funding is distributed to EU countries and regions to finance operational programmes and employment-related projects, from helping to create work to addressing educational gaps, poverty and social inclusion
  • Beneficiaries are usually people, but funding can also be used to help companies and organisations

More flexibility, simplicity and efficiency

The updated European Social Fund Plus merges a number of existing funds and programmes, pooling their resources:

This allows for more integrated and targeted support. For instance, people affected by poverty will benefit from a better mix of material assistance and comprehensive social support.

Because of these more flexible and simpler rules, it should be easier for people and organisations to benefit from the fund.


The European Social Fund+ will invest in three main areas:

  • Education, training and lifelong learning
  • effectiveness of labour markets and equal access to quality employment
  • Social inclusion and combatting poverty

The fund also supports initiatives enabling people to find better employment or work in a different EU region or country. This includes developing new skills for new types of jobs required by the green and digital transitions.

European Social Fund+