The report shows that by the end of 2014, at least 9.4 million European residents found a job with support from the Fund. 8.7 million gained a qualification or certificate. Other positive results, such as increased skills levels, were reported by 13.7 million participants.
According to the evaluation, between 2007-2014, the European Social Fund has provided essential support to implementing national and EU priorities for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, including the Europe 2020 targets and country-specific recommendations in the framework of the European Semester.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said: "Today's report shows that the European Social Fund has, within 7 years, helped millions of Europeans find jobs, acquire extra skills and qualifications. The European Social Fund had an essential role in the functioning of labour markets in all Member States, it helped modernise employment services, supported education systems and general public administration, and supported the most disadvantaged in society. We should now build on this experience to invest in Europe's human capital - workers, young people and all those looking for a job."
Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, commented: "Today's evaluation proves that the European Social Fund makes a real difference in the lives of Europeans. It is our main instrument to invest in human capital. Thanks to European support, millions of people have found a job, improved their skills or found their way out of poverty and social exclusion. It is solidarity at its best."
Participants in ESF-actions were evenly spread between the inactive (36%), the employed (33%) and the unemployed (30%). Key target groups included the low-skilled (40%), young people (30%) and the disadvantaged (at least 21%). Women made up 51.2 million of the participants.
Member States benefited from significant additional financial resources under the ESF to address employment and social challenges, to reach people and set-up policies that otherwise would have had difficulty to find financial support. ESF provided, for instance, more than 70% of resources for active labour market policies in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia and more than 5% of expenditure on education and training in Portugal and Czech Republic. The ESF also has sparked fresh ways of working between stakeholders and supported local and regional innovations that then were mainstreamed nationally.
The ESF has played an essential role in supporting the modernisation of public employment services and other institutions responsible for active labour market actions. In less developed regions the ESF has supported reforms in the education, judiciary and general public administration. This way, it gave a positive impetus to the business environment and creating more inclusive societies.
The ESF has also had a positive impact on GDP of EU28 (0.25% increase) and productivity, according to macroeconomic simulations.
Finally, the report highlights the role of the ESF in mitigating the negative effects of the crisis. Thanks to its flexibility, it could easily and swiftly respond to emerging challenges, by refocussing actions on those most affected by the crisis.
The European Social Fund (ESF) is the EU's oldest fund, created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and Europe's main tool for investing in human capital, by promoting employment and social inclusion. Helping people to get a job (or a better job), integrating disadvantaged people into society and ensuring fairer life opportunities for all, are the priorities under the Fund.
In the 2007-2013 programming period the ESF was operational in all 28 Member States, through a total of 117 Operational Programmes (OPs). These programmes respond to different objectives: 59 under the regional competitiveness and employment objective, 42 under the convergence objective and 16 multi objective programmes. In line with the principle of shared management, the Commission and Member States develop together the priorities and objectives of the Programmes, and the Member State can then select and develop the concrete projects under the Programme, in a way that is best suited to serve the needs of their citizens.
The total allocation for ESF 2007-2013 was €115.6 billion, of which €76.8 billion came from the EU budget, €35.1 billion from national public contributions and €3.7 billion from private funds. Operations were carried out between January 2007 and December 2015.
A number of key changes were introduced as compared with the previous programming period, in particular closer links to EU employment policies and objectives and relevant country‑specific recommendations and greater flexibility to decide how to achieve common objectives.
To ensure independence, the evaluation was held by external evaluation experts. It was composed of a preparatory study, five thematic studies covering the whole range of ESF interventions and a synthesis report. It also benefited from the results of an open public consultation.