13% more people claiming “living wage” benefit

The number of people claiming living wage benefit rose by 13.2% in 2015. The figures come from the Programmatical Public Service for Social Integration (PODMI). The increase is largely due to stricter rules governing entitlement to unemployment benefit. One in three of those claiming living wage benefit are between 18 and 24 years of age.

By the end of 2015 116,146 people were claiming living wage benefit, up 13.2% on the monthly average in 2014. The increase is more pronounced in Wallonia (+17.4%) than in Flanders (+9.8%) and the Brussels-Capital Region (9.3%). PODMI expects that there will be a further increase of around 10% this year.

Some of last year’s increase (2.3%) can be accounted for by an increase in the number of those that are part of vulnerable groups (seniors, single people and immigrants) and some (2.3%) due to an increase in the number of refugees. However, the lion’s share is due to reforms to entitlement to unemployment benefit.

Young people aged between 18 and 24 form the largest group among those claiming living wage benefit. This age category now makes up 31% of those claiming living wage benefit. In 2013 and 2014 5% of 18-24 year-olds were claiming living wage benefit. This has now risen to 9.2 percent.

Prior situation

PODMI looked at claimants’ situation prior to going on living wage benefit. Half of those that went to their local social services to claim living wage benefit had no income from working, unemployment benefit or any other benefits. These include school-leavers, those granted refugee status and the homeless.

Almost in 1 in 5 previously had an income from work. Of this group around 10% had stop working for themselves and had too few means to make ends meets.

They had lost their entitlement to other benefits as they had been scrapped from the list of those entitled or had come to the end of their period of entitlement.
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