The European Social Fund Plus

The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is the European Union’s main instrument for investing in people. With a budget of almost EUR 99.3 billion for the period of 2021-2027, the ESF+ will provide an important contribution to the EU’s employment, social, education and skills policies, including structural reforms in these areas. 

The European Commission adopted its new ESF+ Regulation (regulation EU 2021/1057) on 30 June 2021. The new 'simpler but stronger’ version of the existing European Social Fund will concentrate on the challenges identified under the European Semester, in particular in order to meet social and employment challenges following the COVID-19 outbreak and with a strengthened focus on social innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed gains in labour participation, challenged educational and health systems and increased inequalities. The ESF+ will be one of the key EU instruments helping Member States to address these challenges.

ESF+ brings together four funding instruments, originally separated in the 2014-2020 programing period including: the European Social Fund (ESF); the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD); the Youth Employment Initiative; and the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

ESF+ will aim to strengthen Europe’s social dimension, by putting the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights into practice through 11 specific objectives.

A more social Europe

The European Commission’s support in the social economy sphere has been stepped up recently, with the adoption of the Social Economy Action Plan. It aims to help the European social economy thrive, tapping into its economic and job-creation potential, as well as its contribution to a fair and inclusive recovery, and the green and digital transitions.

For further information about ESF+, please visit the ESF+ website.

For preliminary information about financial instruments under the ESF, please consult the fi-compass factsheet on ESF financial instruments.

Recent videos


ESF financial instruments in action: impact and success stories

16 December 2021   about 8 mins

ESF financial instruments mobilised more than EUR 800 million of financing in the 2014-2020 programming period to foster employment, social inclusion, education and learning across the European Union. This video showcases the stories of final recipients from Poland, Lithuania, Italy and Portugal, who could see their projects get off the ground thanks to ESF financial instruments.


Crowdfunding and ESF opportunities - Future perspectives for managing authorities

30 March 2021   about 2.5 mins

Crowdfunding increasingly represents an alternative and reliable source of finance for SMEs and micro enterprises, as well as a first sounding board for innovative business ideas and for social impact projects. Often aligned with ESF priorities and target groups, crowdfunding can benefit from financial instruments and improve the conditions of its financing offer. In the post COVID-19 scenario, crowdfunding could play a key role in underpinning the economic recovery and leaving no one behind.

ESF video

The Portuguese Social Innovation Initiative - Supporting the Development of Social Finance Ecosystems and Member States under ESF

03 November 2020   about 5 mins

Portugal Inovação Social is an ESF initiative that is contributing to build up a healthy social economy ecosystem in Portugal. Through its different tools, Portugal Inovação Social delivers to social investors and social service providers a balanced mix of support which is composed of grants, financial instruments and technical assistance.

You can hear from the practitioners how the combination of grants and financial instruments can support the growth of the social enterprises in Portugal, and how Social Impact Bonds can test the scalability of cutting-edge solutions to societal challenges.


Cover picture

Barabar, did you say?

16 July 2023

Thanks to a microloan backed by SIS Credit under the ESF financial instrument, a group of friends created Infinite Games Ltd, a social enterprise active in the field of human rights education.

Sewing thread

The perfect fit

04 July 2023

Thanks to a EUR 17 895 microfinance loan backed by SIS Credit under the ESF financial instrument, Stelian Radovenski and Lazar Lazarov founded Made Right, a profitable business specialising in the production of quality shirts for men in Pleven, the third largest city in Northern Bulgaria.

Poland (map)

BGK: Financing the foundations of social inclusion

02 February 2023

Thanks to financial instruments financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) — the Polish Development Bank — supports the development of cooperatives, foundations, associations and other social economy entities created by people at risk of exclusion and employing individuals from disadvantaged groups: seniors, persons with disability or at risk of exclusion.