European Social Fund (ESF)

This refers to the programme for ‘regional competitiveness and employment’ in the Flanders region of Belgium.

Across the European Union, there are wide disparities in terms of economic and social development. To reduce and ultimately eliminate these socioeconomic disparities, the European Structural Funds were launched in 1975. The European Social Fund, commonly known as the ESF, is one of these structural funds.

The ESF provides funds for increasing employment and stimulating and strengthening the Flemish labour market.

These resources are allocated to five priorities:

  1. investment in long-term and high-quality jobs in the Flemish labour market and in training and lifelong learning. 60% of the funds are intended for this purpose, and used consistently with the Flemish career policy that aims for a more effective labour market;
  2. in particular, ESF projects in Flanders focus on the key points of career transition: from school into work, from unemployment into work, or from one job to another;
  3. 20% of ESF funds are committed to support for social inclusion and equality, and the fight against poverty. The focus is on paths into employment for the most vulnerable groups in the labour market;
  4. structural measures at corporate level encouraging people to work for longer receive special attention in the programme: ESF projects help businesses to create an attractive working environment for all employees;
  5. finally, the ESF aims to continue to support transnational exchanges and innovation or the stimulation of service innovation in the labour market.

The ESF programme invested almost a a billion euro in the Flemish labour market between 2014 and 2020. 378 million were financed by the ESF.

Management authority

The Department for Employment and Social Economy – European programs department has been appointed as management authority and is responsible for the delivery of the programme.


Certifying authority

The Department for Employment and Social Economy – Office of the Secretary General has been appointed as the certifying authority and is responsible for receiving and disbursing European subsidies.

Audit authority

Flanders Audit Authority is the responsible audit authority.