Equal is a Community initiative that aims to implement EU strategy to combat social exclusion and discrimination in the labour market on the basis of sex or sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs and disability or age. It is specifically linked to the four pillars of the European Employment Strategy – employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities.
The initiative seeks to experiment with, develop and disseminate new approaches for implementing employment policies to combat discrimination and inequalities. Member States present initiative programmes for transnational cooperation (which may be geographically or sector based) to the Commission. These programmes implement the Equal activities that are linked to each of the EES pillars. These are intended to set up development and transnational cooperation partnerships, support implementation of these development partnerships and work programmes, network and disseminate good practice, and provide technical assistance.
Equal is financed jointly by the Member States and the Commission. The funding comes from the European Social Fund and amounts to 2.847 billion euro over seven years (Commission Decision C/2000/1221 of 15 May 2000 establishing an indicative distribution by Member States of the commitment appropriations under the Community initiative EQUAL for 2000–2006).