2020 evaluation of promoting social inclusion, combatting poverty and any discrimination by the European Social Fund (Thematic Objective 09)

The European Social Fund (ESF) is the main financial instrument for operationalising the European Union’s policies related to employment, education, training and social inclusion.

It supports four of the eleven Thematic Objectives defined in the Common Provision Regulation,4 one of which is Thematic Objective 9 (ESF support to social inclusion): “promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination” in the 2014-2020 programming period.

The study, written by ICF, Cambridge Econometrics and Eurocentre, analyses the impact of ESF funded projects carried out in the period 2014-18 with the aim to promote social inclusion of disadvantaged individuals such as unemployed, low-skilled people, migrants and people with disabilities.

Cambridge Econometrics led the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that was carried out to support the assessment of how efficient the ESF in the achievement of the objectives of Thematic Objective 9 is. The purpose of the ex-post CBA is to assess the extent to which the policy has delivered against its expected outcomes and overall value for money.

The CBA at EU-level assessed whether the benefits accrued by the participants in ESF funded projects outweighed the costs of TO9. A detailed CBA was performed for five specific projects used as case-studies.

Key findings:

  • The EU level analysis indicates that for many Member States, the costs of TO9 interventions outweigh the benefits within the two-year time horizon considered.
  • The results also indicated that value for money could be achieved within a sensible timeframe – within 5 years for most Member States.
  • The TO9 interventions are always expected to benefit participants in many ways which are difficult to monetise and therefore difficult to include in an EU-level CBA.
  • The detailed CBA identified positive returns for four of five projects investigated.
Cornelia-Madalina Suta Principal Economist [email protected]