MEPs approve new Social Fund to support young people and the most deprived

  • €88 billion for 2021-2027 
  • Focus on youth employment and children’s access to childcare, education, healthcare and housing 
  • All EU member states will spend at least 3% to mitigate extreme poverty 

On Tuesday, Parliament gave its final green light to the EU’s main instrument for investing in people and tackling inequalities for the next seven years.

The European Social Fund+, with a total budget of €88 billion, will play an important role in the implementation of the action plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights and in countering the socio-economic effects of the pandemic.

Investing in children and youth

During the negotiations, Parliament secured more ambitious funding for investing in youth employment and combating child poverty, addressing two groups of people that have been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

Member states with an above EU-average percentage of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) between 2017 and 2019 should devote at least 12.5% of their ESF+ resources to help them improve their skills or find a good quality job. Other member states should also dedicate resources to them, preferably by implementing the reinforced Youth Guarantee schemes.

On a similar basis, member states that had an above EU average percentage of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion between 2017 and 2019 should invest at least 5% of their programming resources in directly supporting children’s equal access to childcare, education, healthcare and decent housing. All member states are obliged to invest in combating child poverty.

Supporting people who need it the most

At the Parliament’s initiative, at least a quarter of the funds will be dedicated to measures fostering equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups, including marginalised communities such as Roma and third-country nationals, to reduce barriers on the labour market, tackle discrimination and address health inequalities.

Among other funds, the current Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) has been integrated into the new ESF+. Under the new rules, all member states will have to spend at least 3% of their funds on food and basic material assistance to address the forms of extreme poverty that contribute most to social exclusion.


“Today, we have adopted a balanced text and secured Parliament’s priorities. The ESF+ is the EU’s main instrument to build a more social and inclusive European Union. It is all the more crucial given the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and will play an important role in the recovery. Parliament will now closely monitor the effective use of the ESF+ across the EU”, said David Casa (EPP, MT).

Next steps

Following Parliament’s approval, the regulation will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal. The Employment and Social Innovation strand will apply retroactively.


The new European Social Fund +, worth €87 995 billion in 2018 prices, integrates the former European Social Fund, 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) into one fund.