According to Article 162 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 146 TEC) the European Social Fund (ESF) aims to: (a) render the employment of workers easier and to increase their geographical and occupational mobility within the Union; and (b) facilitate their adaptation to industrial changes and to changes in production systems, in particular through vocational training and retraining. The ESF is administered by the Commission, which is assisted in this task by a Committee composed of representatives of the governments, trade unions and employers' organisations (Article 163 TFEU, ex Article 147 TEC).
Regulation 1083/2006 establishes the framework for action by the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund for the period 2007 to 2013 and lays down, in particular, their objectives, principles and rules concerning partnership, programming, evaluation and management [see also Regulation 1989/2006 and section 12.1.2]. The ESF is therefore governed by Regulation 1083/2006 and by Regulation 1081/2006, which establishes its tasks, the scope of its assistance, specific provisions and the types of expenditure eligible for assistance. The tasks of the ESF are all the more important in consideration of the importance of the European social model and its modernisation in view of the challenges arising from the enlargement of the Union and the phenomenon of economic globalisation.
The main task of the ESF is to contribute to the priorities of the Union as regards strengthening economic and social cohesion by improving employment and job opportunities, encouraging a high level of employment and more and better jobs. In order to better contribute to the implementation of the objectives and targets agreed at the Lisbon and Göteborg European Councils [see sections 13.3.2 and 16.2], the ESF must support actions in line with measures taken by Member States on the basis of the guidelines adopted under the European Employment Strategy, as incorporated into the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs, and the accompanying recommendations [see section 13.3.2]. In so doing, the ESF must take into account the relevant priorities and objectives of the Union in the fields of education and training, increasing the participation of economically inactive people in the labour market, combating social exclusion - especially that of disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities - and promoting equality between women and men and non-discrimination. The ESF must also act to tackle the relevant dimensions and consequences of demographic changes in the active population of the EU, in particular through lifelong vocational training.
With a view to better anticipating and managing change and increasing economic growth, employment opportunities for both women and men, and quality and productivity at work under the Convergence and Regional competitiveness and employment objectives [see section 12.3.1], assistance from the ESF focuses, in particular, on improving the adaptability of workers and enterprises, enhancing human capital and access to employment and participation in the labour market, reinforcing the social inclusion of disadvantaged people, combating discrimination, encouraging economically inactive persons to enter the labour market and promoting partnerships for reform. In addition to these priorities, in the least developed regions and Member States, under the Convergence objective and with a view to increasing economic growth, employment opportunities for both women and men, and quality and productivity at work, the ESF helps to expand and improve investment in human capital and to improve institutional, administrative and judicial capacity, so as to prepare and implement reforms and enforce the acquis.
More specifically, within the framework of the Convergence and Regional competitiveness and employment objectives, the ESF supports actions in Member States under the following priorities:
(a) increasing adaptability of workers, enterprises and entrepreneurs with a view to improving the anticipation and positive management of economic change;
(b) enhancing access to employment and the sustainable inclusion in the labour market of job seekers and inactive people, preventing unemployment, in particular long-term and youth unemployment, encouraging active ageing and longer working lives, and increasing participation in the labour market;
(c) reinforcing the social inclusion of disadvantaged people with a view to their sustainable integration in employment and combating all forms of discrimination in the labour market;
d) enhancing human capital, in particular by promoting the design and introduction of reforms in education and training systems; and
(e) promoting partnerships, pacts and initiatives through networking of relevant stakeholders, such as the social partners and non-governmental organisations;
Within the framework of the Convergence objective, the ESF supports actions in Member States under the following priorities:
(a) expanding and improving investment in human capital; and
(b) strengthening institutional capacity and the efficiency of public administrations and public services at national, regional and local level and, where relevant, of the social partners and non-governmental organisations, with a view to reforms, better regulation and good governance especially in the economic, employment, education, social, environmental and judicial fields.
The Member States must ensure that operational programmes include a description of how gender equality and equal opportunities are promoted in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of operational programmes. Member States shall promote a balanced participation of women and men in the management and implementation of operational programmes at local, regional and national level, as appropriate. Particular attention should also be paid to the participation of target groups, the integration of migrants, including those seeking asylum, the identification of policy issues and their subsequent mainstreaming, innovation and experimentation techniques.