European Social Fund (ESF): how to apply for a grant?

Verified 16 August 2022 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

The European Social Fund (ESF) is a structural fund designed to support job creation in the European Union (EU) and improve people’s job prospects. The ESF always co-finances other public and/or private financiers. The level of ESF co-financing varies from region to region. Applications for funding are open to associations and companies. It's done exclusively online. The application is processed by the regions.

The European Social Fund (ESF) aims to promote job creation (aid for the development of transport and the construction of new housing to enable job creation) in the the European Union (EU) and to strengthen the professional prospects of citizens.

In 2021, the ESF became ESF+ and the following programs were integrated:

  • Youth Employment Initiative (YEI)
  • Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)
  • European Union Program for Employment and Social Innovation (Easi)
  • Health Systems Modernization Program

The ESF+ is managed under 7-year programs. Since 2021, a new 7-year cycle (2021-2027) has been underway.

The ESF is not an employment agency : it does not provide assistance or job offers directly to individuals. It finances projects in EU countries at local, regional and national level.

The ESF always co-finances projects with other public and/or private stakeholders (government, local authorities, consular chambers, companies, etc.). As a result, project promoters must first obtain financing from their partners or from their own treasury.

Examples of projects:

  • Development of transport
  • Creating housing
  • Loan of vehicle to go to training courses
  • Help finding work
  • Fight against discrimination

The level of ESF co-financing of a project varies from region to region. The regions are divided into 3 categories:

  • More developed regions where the share of ESF funds in the co-financing of projects can reach 50% of the total project cost
  • Transition regions where the co-financing rate can reach 60%
  • Less developed regions where the co-financing rate can reach 85%

Regional councils manage 35% the national envelope of the ESF and the State shall manage the 65% remaining.

The application for funding is made online only in the tool My ESF approach.

My ESF approach


A questionnaire is to be filled out. The purpose of the test is to determine whether you are employed, whether you are registered in Pôle emploi, your level of education, whether you are a person with a disability, whether you receive social assistance,...

The project must not be completed by the date of the application for funding. The total duration of the project cannot exceed 36 months.

The request for funding is handled by the Regional Directorate for Economic Affairs, Employment, Labor and Solidarity (Dreets).

The appraisal shall consist of a qualitative, quantitative and financial analysis of the grant application dossier. It shall give rise to an opinion.

Applications shall be selected by a regional programming committee (or a national programming committee if the project is part of a nationally managed program) on the basis of the opinion.

If the applications are accepted, they result in an agreement on the model set out in My ESF approach.

The grant is not paid out right away.

The implementation of the project is followed by a service check carried out by the ESF Convention managers. If necessary, the region makes on-site visits.

If the project is found to have been completed, the grant is paid. This depends on the conclusions of the service check carried out. It is completely dematerialized and is carried out on the platform My ESF approach.

My ESF approach

Payment of the grant may be made by way of advance payment, advance payment or balance. The conditions for the payment of any advance, payments on account and the balance shall be defined at the time of appraisal and entered in the agreement.

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