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ESF Activities: Businesses undergoing change

05 September 2009
by inadim -- last modified 29 September 2009

For the 2007-2013 programming period, the European Social Fund (ESF) is supporting actions aimed at anticipating and managing economic and structural changes to ensure more and better jobs for Europe.


As European enterprises learn to adapt to an environment of permanent restructuring, it is important to strike the right balance between flexibility for businesses and security for workers that will help maintain human capital and employability. For this, forward-looking planning of human resources is a core issue. The development of mechanisms for such 'active employment measures' requires partnerships between many actors at national, regional and local levels, as well as at Community level.

A major aim is to move away from ‘corporate restructurings’ that include job losses and are essentially a reaction to events, and instead to anticipate such events and circumstances in ways that allow for fluid and smooth change that supports jobs. Creating the conditions for flexibility and security which will support human capital and employment protection depends on several factors: the qualifications of the workforce, including their transferable skills; the internal flexibility of companies, including issues such as multi-skilling and working time arrangements; and external flexibility in the form of company outplacements, for example.

ESF support for managing change

Learning to manage change and support active employment policies requires action at many levels:

  • Enterprises and sectors facing increased competition must restructure in order to compete effectively, and they must learn to live in an evolving environment that demands new and innovative ways of working;
  • Industrial sectors must understand and anticipate the challenges they face today and in the future and look for innovative ways to meet these challenges;
  • Regions and cities must anticipate economic change and, through innovative employment initiatives, ensure that the workers and skills are in place at the right time and in the right place to support economic growth;
  • Universities and training institutions must anticipate the needs of the knowledge-based economy and help the knowledge and skills that tomorrow's enterprises and workers need;
  • Governments must ensure that investment strategies and employment strategies are appropriate to future needs and in line with the Lisbon Agenda, and that social protection systems are adapted to meet new challenges;
  • Workers need to acquire the flexibility to adapt to change and actively take control of their careers, by anticipating future needs, and upgrading their skills to anticipate these needs.

A wide range of EU and national strategies are in place to help Europe, European enterprises and European workers embrace change and realise its benefits – among these strategies the ESF is playing a major role.

ESF support for active employment policies

The ESF is funding national and regional projects in the following areas:

Support systems that anticipate change

Including projects to support employment observatories that predict economic change and identify future training needs and communicate these to the regions, sectors, companies and training providers. Also, partnership systems that link employers, trade unions, workers and social partners together in efforts to anticipate and manage restructuring.

Support company and sector restructuring

Including projects to develop early-warning systems in companies; to build sectoral networks between companies, trade unions and others, that can help foresee and manage change in an integrated manner; and to support business networks and consulting for change management.

Support to individuals

Support to help workers become more adaptable is mainly given under the priority ‘workforce adaptability’.

Press Release: '€100 million EU micro-finance facility to help unemployed start small businesses'

Source: European Commission

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