Brussels, 12 September 2013
Employment: over 6000 entrepreneurs have received Progress Microfinance loans to start or expand their business
More than 6000 entrepreneurs have already benefitted from loans worth a total of close to €50 million under the European Progress Microfinance Facility, according to the third annual report on this EU instrument. The report confirms that Progress Microfinance has significantly contributed to job creation, helping a high percentage of people who were previously unemployed or inactive into employment. In particular, microfinance facilitates self-employment and entrepreneurship among groups who typically have more difficulties to raise money, such as young people and minorities.
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: "Starting a business can be a viable way for some people to get back to work and a powerful tool to help disadvantaged groups to integrate into society. Easing access to micro-finance is therefore a great social investment with considerable added value for would-be entrepreneurs and for society at large. I am glad that the recent agreement on a new Programme for Employment and Social Innovation will enable us to increase outreach of the European Progress Microfinance Facility in the 2014-20 period."
The report indicates that almost one third of final beneficiaries said they were unemployed or inactive when they applied. Almost 80% of the micro-companies supported are start-ups operating for less than three years.
Agriculture and trade remain the two sectors receiving most support from the Facility, accounting for more than a half of all supported enterprises.
Training and mentoring also plays an important role in boosting entrepreneurship, in addition to access to finance. The intermediaries through which Progress Microfinance financing is channelled are contractually bound to cooperate with organisations providing such training and mentoring and Member States can use the European Social Fund to provide assistance in the form of coaching or training for business starters. Such support has a positive impact on the business skills of the beneficiaries and clearly complements microloans obtained under Progress Microfinance. In Ireland, for example, the ‘Going for Growth’ initiative, designed to support women business starters via mentoring and coaching, is funded in part through the Human Capital Investment ESF Operational Programme 2007-2013.
The current European Progress Microfinance Facility aims to help people who face difficulties in securing a traditional bank loan to get better access to microcredit in order to become self-employed or set up their own business. The Facility finances loans of less than €25,000 for unemployed people, people at a risk of losing their jobs and people from disadvantaged groups, for instance young or older people or migrants. The aim of Progress Microfinance is not only to make EU funding available but also to create a leverage effect for total investment of some €500 m, i.e. five times the EU contribution. This leverage effect is achieved by co-investment from other partners (European Investment Bank, European Parliament Preparatory Action ‘Promoting a more favourable environment for microcredit in Europe’), by the revolving nature of the funds, and by the nature of the products offered. For example, microfinance intermediaries can obtain a portfolio guarantee under Progress Microfinance, which makes it easier to raise financing from market investors and use it for provision of microloans.
The Progress Microfinance Facility is operated by the European Investment Fund and works through microcredit providers at national, regional or local level. Currently, there are 26 microcredit providers in 15 Member States involved: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the UK.
The new EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation 2014-20 (EaSI), formerly known as the Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI), was initiated by the Commission in October 2011 and political agreement with the European Parliament and Council was reached in June 2013 (see MEMO/13/628). The scope of microfinance activities in the new programme will be extended to provide funding for capacity-building for microfinance providers, in order to allow them to develop their businesses and offer better out-reach to clients. The new programme will also include an instrument focused on supporting social enterprises – i.e. businesses with a primarily social purpose. The overall budget of EaSI 2014-20 will be €815 million, of which over €170 million for microfinance and social entrepreneurship.
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Sector distribution of microenterprises financed under the European Progress Microfinance Facility
Regional distribution of financed microenterprises
Number of beneficiaries by NUTS1 region