The Equal Community Initiative Programmei for the period 2000 to 2006 was approved by the European Commission on 9 March 2001. Funded through the European Social Fund, Equal is an initiative which tests and promotes new means of combating all forms of discrimination and inequalities in the labour market, both for those in work and for those seeking work, through transnational co-operation. Equal operates across five identified thematic priorities:
- Equal Opportunities
- Asylum Seekers
Equal funds activities implemented by strategic partnerships called Development Partnerships (DPs). Each Development Partnership will address one thematic field of its choice. Development Partnerships may be organised on a geographical, economic or industrial sector basis and can be operated at a national, regional or local level. Equal operates in stages called Actions 1, 2, 3 and 4. Action 1 is the first stage lasting up to six months during which Development Partnerships finalise their constitution and prepare their programme of activities, already presented in outline to secure initial recognition as a Development Partnership. Action 2 covers the main implementation activities of work programmes approved at the end of Action 1. Action 3 covers the thematic networking and dissemination of good practice and impact on national policies.
There are nine thematic areas under which projects can be submitted.
- Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or re-integrated into a labour market which must be open to all
- Opportunities to promote potential for ethnic minorities within the world of work
- Opening up the business creation process to all by providing the tools required for setting up in business and for the identification and exploitation of new possibilities for creating employment in urban and rural areas
- Strengthening the social economy (the third sector), in particular the services of interest to the community, with a focus on improving the quality of jobs
- Promoting lifelong learning and inclusive work practices which encourage the recruitment and retention of those suffering discrimination and inequality in connection with the labour market
- Supporting the adaptability of firms and employees to structural economic change and the use of information technology and other new technologies
- Reconciling family and professional life, as well as the re-integration of men and women who have left the labour market, by developing more flexible and effective forms of work organisation and support services.(Not open to GB applicants).Actions related to work/life balance have been included in the Adaptability pillar (themes E and F) and issues related to access to employment should be covered by the Employability pillar (themes A and B).
- Promoting gender equality in the work place, reducing gender gaps and supporting job desegregation.
- Helping the integration of asylum-seekers. Depending on the official status of the asylum seeker — an extremely complex area, with variations between Member States — assistance may be for new ways of helping to access the labour market, or to provide training for unsuccessful asylum seekers prior to their leaving the country
How does EQUAL work?
EQUAL co-finances activities in all EUi Member States. The EU contribution to EQUAL of 3.274 billion EUR is matched by national funding. EQUAL differs from the European Social Fund mainstream programmes in its function as a laboratory (principle of innovation) and in its emphasis on active co-operation between Member States. Two calls for proposals for EQUAL projects in the Member States have taken place so far, the first one in 2001, the second one in 2004. Responsibility for the implementation of the Community Initiative programmes in the Member States lies with the national authorities.For more information on EQUAL, please go to the European Commission EQUAL website below.