The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is dedicated to investing in people and supporting the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights for the period of 2021-27. It also intends to address the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and support the transition to a green, sustainable and digital economy. To achieve these goals, a part of its funds is dedicated to the development of the social economy and the social investment ecosystem in the member states. 


What is it?

Budget: €99.3 billion

ESF+ investment target areas

The ESF+ finances actions in the areas of employment, education and skills, and social inclusion, guiding 11 objectives.  In all its investments, the ESF+ will promote the horizontal principles of gender equality, respect for fundamental rights, equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

Who is implementing the ESF+? 

The ESF+ is implemented under shared management for the ESF+ implemented by national/regional authorities, direct management for the EaSI strand of ESF+ and indirect management for the ESF Social Innovation+. 

What are the types of funding?

Grants, procurements and financial instruments.

Who can apply? 

Social investors, EU public and private organisations, non-governmental organisations, EU citizens, young people and children and people from vulnerable groups.

Good to know

The ESF+ integrates and replaces four European funds from the programming period of 2014-20, such as the former European Social Fund (ESF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

ESF+ shared management strand

Budget: € 98.5 billion

The ESF+ shared management is a strand of the ESF+ programme, accounting for most of the budget of the funding programme (€98.5 bn out of €99.3bn).

Investment target areas 

Besides the general objectives of the ESF+ programme, the member states will allocate part of the resources to tackle social challenges under  these thematic areas:

  • Promote social inclusion, including the promotion of the socio-economic integration of third-country nationals
  • Tackle child poverty 
  • Support the most deprived persons
  • Promote youth employment, especially through education
  • Support the capacity of social partners and civil society in delivering social policies
  • Support social innovation actions
  • Tackle socio-economic challenges identified in relevant country-specific recommendations and in the European Semester

What are the types of funding?

Grants, procurements and financial instruments, such as equity investments, loans, guarantees or other risk-sharing financial packages.

Who can apply?

Social investors, EU public and private organisations, non-governmental organisations, EU citizens, young people and children, and people from vulnerable groups.

Who is implementing the ESF+? 

The national and/or regional authorities are the managing authorities, in partnership with the European Commission, responsible for implementing the resources under this strand of the ESF+.

The member states develop national and/or regional programmes, in agreement with the European Commission, on the allocation of the fund for the period 2021-27.  These programmes are aligned with the social challenges identified and recommendations provided under the European Semester (the EU framework for coordinating economic and social policies across the Union).  

How can I apply for ESF+ funding? 

Individuals and organisations interested in accessing ESF+ funding for a project should contact the ESF+ managing authority in their country or region. To find the relevant ESF+ contact addresses, visit the ‘Support in your country’ section.

The member states also provide national portals to inform citizens about the implementation of the EU funds in their countries during the 2021-2027 funding period, including the ESF+. 

Useful links

The EaSI strand

Budget: € 762 million

Investment target areas

As part of ESF+, the EaSI strand follows the same general policy objectives with the European Pillar of Social Rights as the main framework. It targets actions on the following policy priorities:
            1) Employment and skills
            2) Labour markets and labour mobility
            3) Social protection and active inclusion  
            4) Working conditions

Who can apply?

EaSI is available to persons and organisations from the following countries: EU member states; European Economic Area countries; EU acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidate countries; and third countries having signed an agreement to participate in the strand or a third country listed in the EaSI work programme. Finally, EaSI is also open to any legal entity created under EU law or any international organisation.

What are the types of funding?

Grants, services and/or supply contracts and prizes.

Who is implementing the EaSI strand? 

The Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Strand is implemented by the European Commission for the period of 2021-2027.

How can I apply for EaSI funding? 

The European Commission publishes calls for proposals and calls for tenders to award service and/or supply contracts on the EU Funding and Tenders portal

Good to know 

There are several ways to benefit from the EaSI strand, even without applying for grants or tenders. Interested persons can take part in conferences and other events open to the public organised by the Commission, EaSI beneficiaries and others. 

Useful links

ESF Social Innovation +

Budget: €197 million.

The ESF Social Innovation+ initiative under the ESF+ programme aims to support transnational cooperation and facilitate the transfer and upscaling of innovative solutions for social challenges in the EU. 

The Social Innovation Grant Scheme, one of the workstreams of the initiative, will launch EU-level calls for proposals aimed at supporting transnational projects that facilitate the transfer and/or scaling up of social innovations. It will support actions to conceptualise and validate tested approaches; help roll out some validated models across Europe, and in other cases, help the social innovation support organisations to improve their capacities. 

What are the types of funding? 

Grant and resources for establishing and running the European Competence Centre for Social Innovation.

Who is implementing the ESF Social Innovation+?

The ESF Social Innovation + is implemented by the Lithuanian European Social Fund Agency (ESFA) on behalf of the European Commission. Following the formalisation of ESFA’s administrative role, the first activities of the initiative are expected to commence in the second half of 2022.  

How can I apply for the ESF Social Innovation + funding? 

The Social innovation grant scheme initiative will launch EU-level calls for proposals.

Good to know

Other initiatives under the ESF Social Innovation +:

Useful links: