The horizontal objectives in detail

In the framework of structural-fund support, horizontal objectives were defined as tasks or objectives that had to be taken into account in planning and implementing programmes and projects in the relevant policy areas.

In the ESF funding period 2014-2020, three horizontal objectives were to be taken into account in the preparation and implementation of ESF measures in accordance with Article 7 f of the ESI reg­u­la­tion, (EU) No 1303/2013 - com­mon pro­vi­sions for the ERDF, the ESF, and the Co­he­sion Fund [PDF, 2MB].

  • Promotion of equality between men and women
    In accordance with Article 7 of the ESI regulation, equality between men and women and the integration of gender perspective should be taken into account and promoted during the preparation and implementation of ESF measures. In accordance with Article 7 of the ESF regulation, the goal was increasing the sustainable participation and progress of women in employment, thus combating the feminisation of poverty. Other objectives were to reduce gender segregation, combat gender stereotypes both in the labour market and in education and further training, and promote both work-life balance for all and the equal distribution of care duties between men and women.
  • Promotion of equal opportunities and non-discrimination
    In accordance with Article 7 of the ESI regulation, member states were also to take measures against any form of discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation during the preparation and implementation of programmes. In particular, accessibility for persons with disabilities was to be taken into account throughout the preparation and implementation of programmes.
    In line with Article 8 of the ESF regulation, such measures were to be aimed at combating all forms of discrimination and improving accessibility for people with disabilities. The goal was to improve integration in the fields of employment, education and training. This promoted social inclusion while reducing inequalities in levels of education and health. It also facilitated the transition from institutional to community-based care, particularly for people experiencing multiple forms of discrimination.
  • Promotion of sustainable development
    In line with Article 8 of the ESI regulation, ESF support measures were also to respect the principle of sustainable development and the promotion of the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment. It was therefore necessary to ensure that the preparation and implementation of ESF activities respects and promotes environmental protection, resource efficiency, climate change mitigation, adaptation, biodiversity, and disaster resistance as well as risk prevention and risk management requirements.

Implementation in the ESF federal-level operational programme

When implementing the federal-level operational programme, the three horizontal objectives were taken into account at all levels of planning, implementation and evaluation. This took place in the form of the two-pronged approach:

In order to improve the implementation of the horizontal objectives, the ESF managing authority also commissioned structural support in the 2014-2020 funding period: the Agency for Horizontal Objectives within the European Social Fund. The main areas of responsibility of this agency were

  • providing expert advice to the actors involved in the implementation of the ESF Federal OP on all cross-cutting issues,
  • networking,
  • ensuring the transfer of information between academics, research and the practical application of policies by ESF actors, and
  • preparing thematic expert reports and guidelines.

Basic principles and basic documents as well as further up-to-date specialist information could be found on the Agency's website at