European Social Fund
The European Social Fund is an inseparable part of the policy of the European Union in the areas of economic and social solidarity and European social policy. As one of the four structural funds, it contributes to bridging the differences in living standards which exist between people and regions in the European Union. From sources of the European Union, the European Social Fund finances aid to the member states for the fulfilment of commonly agreed goals and supports their activities aimed at improving the prospects of people in finding work and gaining the necessary qualifications. The main areas of the ESF policy include:
- the development and support of active policy in the labour market;
- the support of equal opportunity for everyone in entering the labour market;
- the support and improvement of training, education and consultancy as a component of the lifelong learning policy;
- the support of a qualified, educated and flexible work force;
- the measures to improve the entry of women into the labour market.
The European Social Fund primarily focuses on the support of the needs of individuals with the goal of increasing their employability. It can, however, also be used for the support of the improvement of systems and structures so that the labour market would function better.
The Czech Republic, namely the MEYS, has been offered the possibility to co-finance from the means of the European Social Fund mainly activities supporting the development and improvement of initial education (modernisation of education programmes, development of key competencies, facilitation of finding a job), the development and improvement of the system of education and acquiring qualification, including the education of teachers, further activities supporting the formation of ties between the labour market and the educational, training and research institutions, including an emphasis on the better preparation of people for success in the labour market.
Utilising the Possibilities of the European Social Fund in EU Countries
Nearly half of the means provided by the European Social Fund for the development of human resources in countries like Greece, Portugal or Ireland is intended for strengthening the educational system. The second half is intended for programmes which are aimed at fighting unemployment through activities focusing on preventing exclusion from the labour market. Key documents, e.g. the National Development Plans and Operational Programmes, where the individual priorities and measures are formulated become the content fundamentals of the aid and support. Responsibility for the European Social Fund is mostly divided among more institutions: for example, the Department of Education and Science in cooperation with other ministries and institutions in Ireland, the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education in Greece and the Ministry of Employment and Social Security and Ministry of Vocational Training in Portugal etc. The main priorities on the basis of which the member states request and subsequently obtain financial support from the European Social Fund include primarily the priorities of improving the educational system and the quality of initial education, the development of science, research and technical education, the development of professional and support for further education, with the activities fulfilling the individual measures being the implementation of curricular innovations, support for the education of teachers, support of the tertiary sector, support for the creation of the certification and accreditation structure or the prevention of premature school leaving.