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

Good practices of ESF+ financial instruments for social economy video thumbnail

Good practices of ESF+ financial instruments for social economy

4 July 2022   about 3 hrs

Explore the full recording of the fi-compass webinar 'Good practices of ESF+ financial instruments for social economy', organised by the European Commission's DG EMPL in partnership with the European Investment Bank. Gain valuable insights from experts as they discuss the EU Social Economy Action Plan and the role of ESF+ in supporting social entrepreneurship and microfinance. Listen to real-life examples from Bulgaria, Germany, and Poland, showcasing successful financial instruments and their impact on the ground.


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.


FSMA article - HERO

New education scheme is a triumph

14 December 2023

An EU-funded scheme, in the field of human capital, is implemented by the Malta Development Bank (MDB) and backed by the European Social Fund (ESF and ESF+). The blended financial instrument combines a guaranteed loan with a grant in the form of interest rate subsidy. Over the past four years, this instrument has allowed more than 500 students finance their studies.

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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

4 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.