History of the ESF in Germany

More than 60 Years of the ESF - Investing in People

Signing of the Treaty of Rome, 25/03/1957
Signing of the Treaty of Rome, 25/03/1957 © European Communities,1955/ EC-Audiovisual Service

The European Social Fund was created with the founding of the European Economic Community in 1957. Since then, it has been improving employment opportunities, supporting people through training and qualifications and helping to reduce disadvantages in the labor market. The ESF has been investing in people for more than 60 years. His focus has shifted during this period. Originally, the ESF primarily supported training-related programs. He now has a wide range of measures at his disposal.

Its funding also shows a considerable development over the eight funding periods: while around 420 million units of account were available for the fund's activities in the period 1961-1972, the ESF has an expenditure budget of around 55 billion euros in the 2007-2013 funding period .

In co-operation with the Member States, the ESF is targeting the following goals:

  • a high level of employment,
  • equality between women and men,
  • sustainable development, as well as
  • economic and social cohesion.

The ESF provides the financial resources to support the European Employment Strategy by means of supplementary programmes to national labour market policy. It has made a decisive contribution to social cohesion in Europe: the financial resources of the ESF have ensured the funding of numerous high-quality projects and measures to enhance the employability of millions of people.

The ESF has been investing in people for over 60 years. In this time, the promotion criteria have been repeatedly adjusted to changes on the labour market.

During the funding period 2021-2027 the Fund will continue to play an important role as a complement to national labour market policies.

Historical development
In Articles 123ff. The Treaty of Rome of 1957 laid down the rules for the European Social Fund for the first time. Its mission at that time was to promote employment opportunities and the local and professional mobility of workers within the Community.

In 1971, 1977, 1983, 1988, 1994, 1999 and 2006, the tasks and functioning of the ESF were revised in order to adapt them to the realities of the labor market and the requirements of the Community's structural policy and to integrate the ESF into the gradually established system of structural policy instruments to integrate community:

  • European Regional Development Fund (ERDF - from 1975)
  • European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF)
  • Guidance Section Financial instruments of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and
  • European Investment Bank (EIB).