European Social Fund (ESF)

Any donor
European Union
Geographical focus: 
Thematic focus: 
Tourism in general
Education in Tourism
Employment, decent work and capacity building in Tourism
Policy and Governance in Tourism
Social inclusion and Poverty reduction in Tourism
Intro text: 
The European Social Fund (ESF) was created in the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957; it is the oldest of the Structural Funds. It is Europe’s main instrument for supporting jobs, helping people get better jobs and ensuring fairer job opportunities for all EU citizens. The ESF is administered by the European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

Official website

Geographic focus


Who can apply?

 All legal persons (within the EU) active in:

  • The labor market; and
  • The fields of education and training, for example:
    • Public administrations;
    • Workers’ and employers’ organisations;
    • NGOs;
    • Charities; and
    • Companies.

Objectives and activities

Objective: ESF aims in particular to improve employment and (workers) mobility as well as the level of professional qualifications in the EU.


  • ESF is funding tens of thousands of local, regional and national employment-related projects throughout Europe to strengthen employment and mobility.
  • ESF is financing initiatives to improve education and training and ensure young people complete their education.
  • ESF finances many thousands of projects to help people in difficulties and those from disadvantaged groups to get skills, to get jobs and have the same opportunities as others do.
  • ESF projects are helping strengthen the efficiency of public administration in delivering public services in all sectors.

Examples of tourism-related actions eligible for funding:

  • ‘Raising standards in Austria’s health tourism sector’; and
  • ‘A boost for Malta’s professional tourism sector’.

Type and level of funding

For the period 2014–2020, ESF has a budget of EUR 10 billion a year. The EU distributes ESF funding to the Member States and regions to finance their operational programmes. ESF allocation may be disbursed through grants, micro-credits or guarantee funds.

Organisations and individuals interested in ESF funding for a project should contact the ESF Managing Authority in their country or region. To find the relevant ESF contact address, visit the ‘support in your country’ section.