Brussels, 20 October 2014
Employment: Progress Microfinance loans worth €182 million given to over 20,000 entrepreneurs for start-ups and expansion
More than 20,000 entrepreneurs have already benefited from loans and guarantees worth a total of €182 million under the European Progress Microfinance Facility, according to the latest European Commission report about the implementation of this financial instrument. In particular, the report finds that Progress Microfinance has significantly contributed to job creation, by enabling credit for unemployed or inactive people struggling to borrow money from financial institutions. The new microfinance financial instrument set to begin in the second half of 2014 under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) will build on this experience.
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said: "By helping people to become entrepreneurs, the European Progress Microfinance Facility is an effective instrument to support people from disadvantaged groups in their efforts to get back to work and integrate into society. Raising the money needed to start new businesses can be difficult for the unemployed, young people and minorities, but small loans such as the ones Progress Microfinance is providing can make a big difference for would-be entrepreneurs who might otherwise never be able to put their creativity at work."
Difficulties in accessing finance represent one of the main barriers for aspiring entrepreneurs. The report indicates that 60% of final users were unemployed or inactive when they applied, 36% of recipients were women and 5.9% were under the age of 25.
Recipients of financial support included minorities such as Roma communities in France and Bulgaria.
Agriculture and trade remained the two sectors receiving most support from the Facility, accounting for more than a half of all supported enterprises.
The report is complemented by an external study showing evidence for unmet demand for microloans throughout the EU and the need to cover the existing gap in the European microfinance market, roughly estimated at around €2.7 billion. This is why the Commission is encouraging Member States to be more active in offering national schemes for microfinance financial instruments, particularly by using their European Social Fund or European Regional Development Fund resources.
The 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 million, 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. In 2013, there were 40 microcredit providers in 18 Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and the UK. In addition, two contracts were signed in Croatia and Sweden after the conclusion of the report.
The new EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation 2014-20 (EaSI) 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 is 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 also includes an instrument focused on supporting social enterprises – i.e. businesses with a primarily social purpose. The overall budget of EaSI 2014-20 is €919 million in 2013 prices, of which over €193 million for microfinance and social entrepreneurship.
The Progress Microfinance Facility will continue to work until 2016. Following the end of the Facility, the balance due to the EU can be used for microfinance and social enterprise support under EaSI.
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