The tradition of a centralized employment policy in France did not favour a structured and consistent development of Local Initiatives in this field. The ESF intervention is “nationally driven”, reflecting this determining role of the State, despite a much regionalised delivery mechanism. Therefore, ESF support is concentrated in a single national Operational Programme (OP): Objective 3 (2000-2006), and “Regional Competitiveness & Employment (RCE)” (2007-2013). Thus, the leading role of local authorities in LEIs’ development is not easy in the French context.
For the previous period (2000-2006), local development was a transversal priority, both at European and national level, which is no longer the case. However, this change does not affect the weight of LEIs supported by ESF in France, programmes and measures remaining identical through time: on one hand, the development of PLIEs strongly co financed by ESF since their inception and on the other one the Micro project scheme, direct legacy of the pilot programme ‘Local Social Capital,” which operated from 1998. In terms of budget, these two measures range respectively from 10 to 1%. The vacuum left by EQUAL has not been filled.
However, there is a multiplicity of local initiatives in France, but dispersed and fragmented, therefore somewhat invisible, notably in the third sector (integration through economic activities (IAE) and social and solidarity economy (SSE), firmly anchored in territories and regions, through its response to local collective needs. Many regional and national networks try to compensate this lack of structuring, their development and professionalization being supported by ESF through dedicated measures (the lead networks mainly).
Of course, the development of LEIs in France, like all public policies, faces the paradox created by the current financial and economic crisis: the explosion of unemployment and the painful rise of exclusion and poverty, along with a decrease in public funding, at all levels, in turn affecting the innovation capacity. In this fragile budgetary context, the demanding and complex managerial and financial tasks related to ESF could jeopardise further LEIs development and maintenance. The simplification and adaptation of management and funding rules is a strong and common wish to all ESF users.
AEIDL (January 2011)
AEIDL is contracted by the European Commission in order to provide technical assistance related to the European Social Fund’s Transnational Cooperation and Innovation strands. The views expressed by AEIDL experts remain informal and may not in any circumstance be regarded as the official position of the European Commission.