On the 16th January, the European Parliament plenary adopted in Strasbourg the Report prepared by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) in the European budget for 2021-2027. The Parliament Report, with its 160 amendments to the Commission proposal, increases the ESF+ total amount and strongly focuses on social inclusion with special attention to youth and children.
The European Social Fund 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. The Commission proposal, in order to allow more integrated and targeted support, merged a number of existing funds and programmes:
- The European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative
- The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
- The EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation
- The EU Health Programme.
The ESF+ will invest in three main areas:
- education, training and lifelong learning;
- effectiveness of labour markets and equal access to quality employment;
- social inclusion, health and combating poverty.
In its proposal the Parliament proposes increasing ESF+ funding in the EU’s 2021-27 long-term budget by approximately 19% from 89,6 to 106,8 billion euro approximately. The percentage dedicated to social inclusion increased from 25% to 27% with an additional 3% to combat extreme poverty, such as homelessness, child poverty, old-age poverty and food deprivation. At least 2% of the ESF+ will support social partners and civil society organisations capacity building in the form of training, networking, and strengthening of the social dialogue. MEPs also allocated 15% of the fund to youth employment support for the countries having a percentage of inactive young people over the EU average. The Report also introduces a European Child Guarantee: 5% of the ESF+ to eradicate child poverty and social exclusion by ensuring equal access to free healthcare, education, childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition.
In the following months, the European Parliament will have to defend its proposal in the negotiations with the Council and the European Commission. The three EU institutions will have to find an agreement on the fund before it can enter into force.