Black economy on the ropes in hospitality industry

Social security department figures show an extra 22,000 jobs in the Belgian hospitality industry. Industry body Horeca Vlaanderen, however, claims the jobs are not really new, but were formerly undeclared and have now been booked as flexi-jobs, often second jobs.

257,848 people were employed in the hospitality industry last year: a rise of 21,988 on the year. Danny Van Assche of Horeca Vlaanderen believes the new 'white cash registers' that prevent undeclared activities played a role, though he thinks most of the new jobs are simply activities that were kept beyond the ken of the taxman until now.

The 'white cash register' and flexi-jobs were introduced in the hospitality industry with a view to tackling the black economy that was rife there. 'White cash registers' register the complete turnover of a business. On flexi-jobs no taxes or social security payments are due. Flexi-jobs allow employees to build up pension, holiday pay and unemployment benefit rights too.

Danny Van Assche says the figures do not point to a boom in the industry. He's calling for additional wage cost reductions to boost the sector. Economy minister Peeters first wants to discuss the issue with the social partners. He stresses that the recent tax shift operation by the government cut wage costs by a quarter.