Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Previous programme


Programme funding

EUR 496 million

Official Journal Reference

C 180 of 1994-07-01

Legislative Reference

94/C180/08 of 1994-07-01
To promote equal employment opportunities for women, in particular with regard to training measures, access to future orientated occupations and to management positions.


The NOW programme is one of four strands incorporated into the Community initiative on employment and the development of human resources; the other three are: "HORIZON" which focuses on promoting the labour market integration of the disabled; "YOUTHSTART" which is targeted at the young unemployed; and "INTEGRA" which is concerned with improving access to the labour market and the employability of vulnerable groups).

The activities contained in the NOW strand of the Employment initiative build on the success of the 1990-1993 phase of the Community programme to promote equal opportunities for women in the field of employment and vocational training (NOW), which formed an integral part of the implementation of the third medium-term programme on equal opportunities (1991 to 1995).

The programme is focused on reducing unemployment among women and to improving the position of those already in the workforce through the promotion of equal employment opportunities. In addition, the programme will support the development of strategies to respond to changes in the organization of work and changing job requirements.

The transnational dimension of the NOW programme permits a comparison of different experiences, as well as the transfer of know-how. It further reinforces the development of innovatory actions in favour of women, especially in Objective 1 areas and in sectors where such actions are at present less developed. To ensure a maximum multiplier effect, particular attention is to be given to the development of the training of trainers, as well as the structures of training programmes, methodologies and tools.

The emphasis placed under the first NOW programme on the development of strong and active partnerships at local, national and transnational level will be continued under the 1994-1999 phase of the programme. These partnerships should involve enterprises, public and private bodies responsible for training and employment, bodies responsible for equality issues, regional and local authorities, non-governmental organizations and women's' organizations, in such a way as best practice is gradually taken up and incorporated into mainstream training and employment systems. Priority is to be given to actions in which the social partners and women's organizations are actively involved at all levels.


Eligible measures:

- Development, in particular through transnational cooperation, of appropriate training guidance, counselling and employment systems, including;
. Development of cooperation and networking between training bodies in order to promote equality of opportunities for women in the labour market;
. Strengthening of links between training bodies, higher education establishments and enterprises to improve the professional integration of women;
. Support to educational establishments for the development of innovatory educational material which improves equality for women in the labour market (Objective 1 areas only);
. Support for the creation or development of guidance/counselling and pre-training services for women;
. Support for the creation or development at local level of advisory services to facilitate the start-up of SMEs and cooperatives;
. Support for the creation or development of relevant care services infrastructure, where they are less developed (Objective 1 areas only);

- Delivery, in particular on a transnational basis, of training, including:
. Provision of a comprehensive package of flexible training and other accompanying measures, including information, guidance, counselling, pre-training, personal development, upgrading of basic skills and qualifying training, re-training, job search assistance, business traineeship and in-job support. Particular attention is to be given to job requirements, new qualifications and skills, notably in the area of RTD and innovative technologies;
. Vocational training measures, including preparatory training, geared specifically to the needs of running businesses or cooperatives;
.Training for trainers, for those responsible for personnel or for negotiating training matters within companies, in order to enhance their awareness of equality issues;
. Training in equality of opportunities for those responsible for personnel in the public sector, including educational establishments;
. Development of innovatory assessment methods to integrate within career structures all the experiences and activities carried out by women, including those that are not formally recognized, in order to promote the accreditation of prior learning;
. Initial and continuing training, especially in SMEs and sectors subject to industrial change, to adapt the female workforce to the changing labour market and to improve their career development;
. Initial and continuing training for appropriate care services personnel;

- Job creation and support, particularly through transnational cooperation, for the start up of small businesses and cooperatives by women, including:
. Development of networking and cooperation on local employment initiatives, aimed at mobilizing the capacities of women to build on local resources;
. Aid for the creation of self-employed activities, small enterprises and cooperatives;
. Aid for the setting up of financial support instruments for enterprise creation by women;

- Information dissemination and dissemination actions, particularly through transnational cooperation, including:
. Measures directed, in particular, at the Social Partners, education personnel, training and employment services, local and regional authorities and the general public to heighten awareness about the need to act in favour of equal opportunities between men and women in the labour market;
. Setting up of networks, creation or improvement of data bases and the carrying out of studies linked with the objectives of the programme and the dissemination of the results of best practice;
. Gender-related monitoring and assessment of vocational training and employment actions.


The activities under the NOW programme are implemented as part of the Community initiative on employment and development of human resources (EMPLOYMENT), 1995-1999.

Actions promoting equal opportunities for women are to be jointly financed by the Member States, the Community and by enterprises and other bodies as appropriate. Where employees of companies take part in the various operations covered by the programme, the enterprise concerned is required to finance an appropriate portion of their participation costs. The programme is applicable to the whole territory of the Union, although particular emphasis is placed on the needs of the less favoured regions. A number of measures, therefore, only apply to priority regions (Objectives 1, 2, 5b and 6).

The Member States were invited to present proposals for support under the NOW strand of the Employment initiative in the form of operational programmes or global grants to the Commission by 1 November 1994. In accordance with the rules covering the Structural Funds, these proposals must include a general appreciation of the situation indicating the objectives to be attained and should include a timetable, criteria and procedures for implementation, monitoring and assessment. The proposals submitted by the Member States are approved by the Commission.

Community assistance to selected proposals under the Employment initiative, is in the form of subsidies funded from a budget of ECU 1.835 billion, of which ECU 496 million is reserved for the implementation of actions under the NOW programme. Of the global budget reserved for the implementation of the Employment initiative, ECU 0.9 billion is earmarked for Objective 1 and 6 regions.

The distribution of the resources between the Member States under the programme is based on the relative severity of structural problems, including in particular relevant unemployment levels, as well as the quality of the proposals submitted for operational programmes and global grants. To encourage transnational operational programmes, two or more Member States may, on their own initiative or on the initiative of the Commission, present a single application for financial assistance.

Technical assistance under the programme may include the dissemination of information and other awareness actions, the provision of constancy and expert services, the creation or development of Community-wide networks to facilitate innovation and transnational cooperation, the development and sharing of databases on training and employment services and other aspects of labour market organization, etc.

Responsibility for implementing actions under the programme is entrusted to a single Monitoring Committee in each Member State. During and at the end of the planning period, the Commission will evaluate, in partnership with the Member States, the results of the programmes submitted. The Commission will use the targets specified by the Member States in their proposals as the main benchmark against which progress is to be assessed. The European Parliament, the Management Committee on the Community initiatives and the national Monitoring Committees shall be fully informed of the results of these evaluations and the action taken in response to them.


The NOW programme operates under the EMPLOYMENT initiative, which was established by a Decision of the European Commission, meeting on 15 June 1994, in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations governing the Structural Funds.
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