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European Social Fund Plus — ESF+ (2021-2027)



Regulation (EU) 2021/1057 establishing the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)


The Regulation establishes the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and lays down the fund’s objectives, its budget for 2021-2027, the methods of implementation, the forms of European Union (EU) funding and the rules for providing such funding.


The ESF+ integrates the former European Social Fund, the youth employment initiative, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived and the EU programme for employment and social innovation.


The ESF+ consists of 2 strands:

  • the shared management* strand; and
  • the employment and social innovation (EaSI) strand under direct* and indirect management*.


The ESF+ has 2 general objectives.

  • To help EU Member States and regions achieve high employment levels, fair social protection and a skilled and resilient workforce ready for the future, as well as inclusive and fair societies that aim to eradicate poverty and deliver on the principles set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights.
  • To support, complement and add value to the policies of Member States to ensure equal opportunities, equal access to the labour market, fair and quality working conditions, social protection and inclusion.

Priority areas

The ESF+ will focus on a number of priority areas, including:

  • supporting young people who have been particularly affected by the socioeconomic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing resources to help them get a qualification, a quality job and improve their education and skills;
  • helping children in need by allocating resources to targeted actions aimed at combating child poverty and supporting the most vulnerable in society suffering from job losses and income reductions, including with the provision of food and basic material assistance to the most deprived;
  • reskilling and upskilling people for the transition to a green and digital economy and improving the quality of education and training systems;
  • promoting gender equality, equal opportunities and non-discrimination;
  • building capacity for social partners and civil-society organisations;
  • promoting social innovation across the EU through transnational cooperation;
  • providing direct support to social innovation through the EaSI strand.

Allocation of resources

The regulation includes certain minimum requirements for the allocation of ESF+ shared management resources by Member States:

  • at least 25% to foster social inclusion;
  • at least 3% to support the most deprived persons;
  • Member States whose average rate of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion for 2017-2019 was above the EU average must allocate at least 5% of their resources to tackling child poverty;
  • Member States whose average rate of young people aged 15-29 not in employment, education or training in 2017-2019 was above the EU average must allocate at least 12.5% of their resources to targeted actions and structural reforms to support youth employment, vocational education and training, in particular apprenticeships, and the transition from school to work, pathways to reintegrate into education or training and second chance education, in particular in the context of implementing schemes under the youth guarantee.

Budget and management

  • The ESF+ has a budget of just under €88 billion (2018 prices) for 2021-2027.
  • The majority of funding (€87.3 billion in 2018 prices) under the ESF+ is allocated under the shared management strand with the Member States. The ESF+ managing authorities in each Member State will dispense the money to relevant projects run by a range of public and private organisations.
  • The European Commission directly manages a smaller share (around €676 million in 2018 prices) under the EaSI strand.
  • To accelerate the transfer and facilitate the scaling up of innovative solutions, €175 million are allocated for transnational cooperation.
  • Common EU rules on the management of funds, applicable to all cohesion policy funds, are set out in Regulation (EU) 2021/1060 (see summary).


It has applied partially, for the EaSI strand, since 1 January 2021, and fully since 1 July 2021.


For more information, see:


Shared management: the EU entrusts the Member States with implementing programmes at the national or the regional level. The Member States’ administrations (at national, regional and local levels) choose which projects to finance and are responsible for their day-to-day management. The Member State is primarily responsible for setting up a management and control system and for preventing, detecting and correcting irregularities. Working together with the Member States, the Commission makes sure that the projects are successfully concluded, and that the money is well spent.
Direct management: the European Commission launches the calls for proposals to award grants to projects and calls for tenders to award service and/or supply contracts.
Indirect management: a managing authority is chosen by the European Commission to manage the project concerned on its behalf.


Regulation (EU) 2021/1057 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 June 2021 establishing the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1296/2013 (OJ L 231, 30.6.2021, pp. 21-59)


Regulation (EU) 2021/1060 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 June 2021 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund Plus, the Cohesion Fund, the Just Transition Fund and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and financial rules for those and for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, the Internal Security Fund and the Instrument for Financial Support for Border Management and Visa Policy (OJ L 231, 30.6.2021, pp. 159-706)

last update 04.08.2021